Airbus Group’s E-Fan demonstrator was able to successfully cross the English Channel on Friday morning, mirroring Louis Blériot’s historical flight nearly 106 years ago. But the record flight is already proving controversial.
Taking off from Lydd Airport in southern England, the twin-fan electric airplane completed the flight in 38 minutes, reaching a cruise altitude of 3,500 feet. Pilot and E-Fan designer Didier Esteyne was at the controls for the flight.
The E-Fan used its onboard lithium-ion battery system for 53 minutes from the aircraft’s start-up at Lydd Airport until its shutdown on the other side of the English Channel at Calais-Dunkerque Airport in France, according to Olivier Michaud, Aero Composites Saintonge’s flight engineer.
While Airbus has many reasons to celebrate the achievement, some controversy over who will take the “first” title has arisen. An official statement from Pipistrel revealed that their preparation for an English Channel crossing was prevented this week due to Siemens prohibiting that their motor be used “for any flight above water.” Following the news, another pilot set out to make the same flight hours before Airbus. French pilot Hugues Duval took off in his Cri Cri Cristaline electric aircraft Thursday evening and made a successful attempt across the Channel.
Like many of the historical flights before this one, debate is sure to spark about who will — and who should — claim the official title.
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