Electric Currents

What A Week for Electric Flight!

Jul 12, 2015

With much of the world's attention focused on Andre Borschberg's record-setting flight in the Solar Impulse Si2 across the Pacific to Hawaii, four other pioneers completed their own aviation firsts with flights across the Alps and the English Channel.

What a remarkable week for aviation. Quietly on June 25th, with little fanfare, a tiny, single seat electric airplane with 280 solar cells attached to its wings flew from Unterwössen, Germany to Lienz, Austria, crossing Grossglockner in a flight lasting two-and-a-half hours, powered by 11.5kWh of energy stored in its lithium-ion battery packs. Then with Andre Borschberg into the fourth day of his own record-setting, solar-powered flight from Japan to Hawaii, the Elektra One Solar (pictured below) took off on July 2nd and recrossed the Alps: the first solar-powered airplane to cross the Austrian Alps in both directions. In 2009, Eric Raymond flew Sunseeker II across the Alps to Italy.

PC Aero Elektra One Solar crossing the Austrian Alps

Then on July 3rd, after a five day, non-stop flight, Solar Impulse Si2 landed safely in Hawaii, setting a new world record for both solar flight and solo flight time. In the process, however, the flight may possibly have overheated and damaged the plane's lithium-ion batteries, reports the BBC, a situation that may 'short-circuit' the around-the-world fight for 2015, as the Atlantic Ocean weather window starts to close in late August.

On July 4th, American Independence Day, a pair of test pilots took off from Stuttgart, Germany in their university built e-Genius and flew non-stop, again on electric power only, to northern Italy, crossing the Swiss Alps. Landing in Calcinate de Pesce, the pilots recharged the plane's batteries and immediately took off again for Stuttgart, the first dual crossing of the Alps in the same day by electric airplane. Here's their video.

In the gathering summer twilight on Thursday, July 9th, the impossibly tiny Cri Cri with Hugues Duval at the controls, flew from Dover, England to Calais, France, upstaging giant AirBus from staking its claim to the record book, when it completed its own cross-channel flight. The elegant E-Fan two-seat trainer prototype made the 36-minute flight the next day, July 10, with helicopter escort and a rescue boat in the Channel. Here's video of that flight; the BBC reporter noting that Cri-Cri may actually have flown across the channel twice: France to England and then back to France, which would be a first, in itself.

EV World congratulates all the pilots, crews and engineers who have built, prepared, and flew these five remarkable airplanes, as well as to Pipistrel, who may have beat everyone into the record book had Siemens, and very likely, AirBus, not pressured them into canceling their own cross-channel flight.

Maybe it's time to dust off my private pilot's license. Flying might just get affordable again.

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