FAA Stance on Electric Airplanes: No Passengers

** Yuneec E430 electric airplane**

The FAA is crafting rules that would allow electric airplanes to operate in U.S. airspace, but there is one big caveat: No passengers will be allowed on board. That's according to a draft FAA order that spells out operating limitations for such aircraft.

The proposed revision to FAA Order 8130.2 really isn't that big of a concern at the moment since electric-powered airplanes can't be sold here yet — and even if they could, there aren't many on the market.

But it could become an important issue as electric airplane regulations are written and manufacturers look to start selling them here. So far Pipistrel in Slovenia offers the only serial production electric airplane in the world, the Taurus Electro G2. A Chinese company called Yuneec International, meanwhile, is looking to bring a small electric LSA to the U.S. called the Greenwing GW430 as a kit.

Plans for a would-be electric airplane market in the U.S. could be hamstrung, however, by rules that prohibit carrying passengers. On the other hand, it's probably a prudent move until such aircraft can prove their safety in flight.

The restrctions spelled out in FAA Order 8130.2 also would also restrict electric airplanes from operating over congested areas or at night.

For the latest developments in battery- and solar-powered aircraft, check out our feature story "Electric Future" from the April 2014 issue of Flying.

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