George Bye, the developer a two-seat solar-electric trainer called the Sun Flyer, said yesterday that the airplane will fly with a touchscreen cockpit from Avidyne based around the all-important assumptions that the avionics be bright enough to read in full sunlight but not so powerful that they drain the batteries down to nothing.
Bye is the CEO of Aero Electric Aircraft Corp., a Nevada firm that is taking a composite aircraft design pioneered in Germany by a company called PC Aero and improving it in a bid to bring to market a practical all-electric airplane for the training and recreational markets.
The trouble with battery-powered aircraft is their extremely limited endurance, which restricts them mainly to operations in the airport pattern. Bye said it will be important to offer the SunFlyer with the latest cockpit technology, even if it won’t be flown as a true cross-country airplane. Eventually, he sees that limitation being lifted.
“I think that by the time we go to market with the Sun Flyer, the next generation of lithium ion battery technology will permit greater endurance,” perhaps more than four hours of range. Next-gen battery packs will be compatible with current connector technology, he said, making the new cells a plug-and-replacement for current batteries.
Dan Schwinn, founder and CEO of Avidyne, said battery-powered airplanes, if they can be produced successfully, will be a vital part of aviation’s future.
“Electric aviation can be a fundamental game changer for cost, especially at the training level,” he said at Avidyne’s Sun ‘n Fun press conference yesterday afternoon. “A majority of people take a few lessons and fall of the face of the earth, in large part because of the high costs.”
The Sun Flyer, Bye said, will eliminate the biggest expense related to flight training, and that is the cost of fuel. The airplane itself, he said, will sell for around $200,000.
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