Solar-Powered Sun Flyer Trainer Makes Progress

Sun Flyer

The quest for low-cost, environmentally friendly flight continues. One company working on a solar powered all-electric two-seater called the Sun Flyer is Aero Electric Aircraft Corp. along with its development partners Bye Aerospace and German PC Aero.

AEAC has started conducting research and development flights with a single-seat technology demonstrator at Centennial Airport (APA) near Denver. The concept airplane first flew out of Munich, Germany, in mid-July. Meanwhile, AEAC has been working on the design of a two-seat prototype of the Sun Flyer, which it hopes to fly sometime next year.

The technology demonstrator is equipped with a Geiger Engineering motor that generates 32 kW of power. Power is stored in several battery packs and the airplane is capable of flying for two hours without the supplement of solar energy. AEAC engineers estimate that the two-seat Sun Flyer will be able to fly for three to four hour in bright sunshine. Configuration plans for the Sun Flyer call for a side-by-side arrangement with a similar battery and electric motor setup as the technology demonstrator.

In addition to lower cost and cleaner flight, benefits of the solar-electric powered concept that AEAC's CEO George Bye said have been confirmed with the technology demonstrator include low-noise, recharging on the ground and in flight and reduced maintenance due to fewer moving parts.

While the FAA still prohibits training flights with electric powered airplanes, the Sun Flyer is targeted to the training market. AEAC is collaborating on a complete training system with Redbird Flight Simulations and Spartan Aeronautical College. The company has not yet decided whether to pursue certification under Part 23 or the light sport aircraft rules, so time will tell if and when the airplane reaches the market.

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Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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