Battery-powered electric plane quietly takes to Australian skies for the first time
Pipistrel's Alpha Electro took to the skies in Australia recently, marking the first time an electric light sport aircraft was certified and flown in the country. The plane has been expressly designed to be an efficient and cheap pilot training craft and this successful first test flight marks a new frontier for electric aircraft in Australia.
The test flight was spear-headed by Australian sustainable aviation company Electro.Aero. The company is at the forefront of electric aviation technology in the country after obtaining certification for the Alpha Electro by the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority in late 2017.
The plane, developed by Slovenia-based manufacturer Pipistrel, is a two-seater, single-propeller light aircraft, powered by two llithium-ion batteries. A single charge can reportedly keep the plane in the air for up to one hour, with 30 minutes of extra power in reserve.
Perhaps the most common comment reported by onlookers witnessing the test flight was how quiet the plane was, and it is this very feature that both Pipistrel and Electro.Aero are suggesting will make the aircraft highly sought after.
"This is the start of the next revolution in general aviation," says Richard Charlton, finance director of Electro.Aero. "We are already fielding enquiries from airports located in major cities where noise complaints have become their number one concern."
The plane's batteries are easily replaceable for quick flight turnovers or can be fully charged in just under one hour. Charlton also points out that the simplicity of an electric engine means significantly cheaper running and maintenance costs when compared to a traditional fossil fuel-powered engine.
"The electric engine is really simple," says Charlton. "It has one moving part, it's a very small piece of equipment and it is a solid-state motor."