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Air Racing Goes Electric!
By Ian Brown, Editor, EAA 657159
February 2021 – The problem with electric flight is obviously the power-to-weight issue. The longer the flight, the more weight needs to be carried. We’re all familiar with needing to carry a full load of avgas for the longest-duration flights. Aviation fuels are much more energy-dense than batteries, pound for pound, so that’s the technology that needs to be advanced before long-duration flights in large aircraft are possible.
Another issue is that virtually every part of the electrical system needs to be redone.
Those challenges turn out to be less of a problem for air racing. Relatively high-powered aircraft carrying less fuel for shorter races can blow the doors off typical light-aircraft airspeeds. Enter electric air racing and Jeff Zaltman of Air Race E. The first of these Reno-like races is planned to go ahead sometime in 2022.
Races will be based on Formula One air races, on a modified 5 km pylon course with a maximum of eight aircraft at a time, with aircraft flying five laps at up to 400 kph (250 mph). The winner will be the first past the post. The electrified aircraft will be based on a Cassutt III racer. Similar to the Red Bull Air Race series, this set of races will be hosted by multiple countries and has so far attracted some corporate support from companies like Airbus.
What is perhaps of greatest interest to EAA members is the possibility that, like Formula One motor racing, Air Race E has the potential to bring technical advances to amateur aircraft builders looking to build electric aircraft.