XTI TriFan will carry six at speeds up to 300 kts.
From Electric Skyhawk to XTI's TriFan VTOL
By Bill Moore
George Bye has been dreaming of electric flight for years, starting with a Cessna 172 Skyhawk. Not only is he close to realizing that dream, but maybe even someday seeing it take flight through a thin, cold atmosphere on Mars.
EV World first interviewed George Bye in the fall of 2010. Bye Aerospace was experimenting with turning a Cessna 172 into the world's first all-electric Skyhawk. Having accumulated a few dozen hours in it as a licensed private pilot myself, I was curious as to how you'd take a Lycoming-powered four-seater and power it with batteries and an electric motor. You can, but not for very long.
Now fast forward a half dozen years and Bye and company, under the auspices of Aero Electric Aircraft Corporation, have learned enough in the interim to be able to develop the first solar-powered, all-electric flight trainer - the Sun Flyer - to shortly reach the market in America. His spin-off company is successfully selling their Silent Falcon UAV.
Now they've announced a joint development project to build a hybrid-electric vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) six-place for the general aviation market called the XTI TriFan. And in the works is the concept for a UAV to explore Mars someday.
It's been some two years since we last caught up with Bye, so with the TriFan announcement we arranged to talk with him from his headquarters in Denver, Colorado. The result is the following 40-minute dialogue in which we catch up on the the progress of his team and learn more about the Sun Flyer and the TriFan especially, a turboshaft series hybrid that uses ducted fan to fly like a helicopter, but with the speed and range of a corporate turboprop: shades of the Boeing V22 Osprey and the military aircraft envisioned in James Cameron's "Avatar."
You can listen to our discussion using the embedded MP3 player or by downloading the file for playback on your favorite MP3 device.
Originally published: 14 Mar 2017
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