FAA: Electric Airplane Passenger Restriction Temporary

Battery safety concerns reason for limitation.

Pipistrel Electric Airplane

Pipistrel Electric Airplane

"This is absolutely a temporary measure." That was the response from the FAA manager in charge when asked about a draft proposal that would prohibit electric airplanes from carrying passengers, flying over congested areas or operating at night — as you might have guessed, it's all being done in the name of safety.

Craig Holmes of the FAA's Aircraft Certification Branch said numerous issues related to electric airplanes' lithium batteries remain, but they are now under study as the agency prepares for future operations by electric aircraft like the Pipistrel Taurus Electro G2. Safety concerns relate to battery venting, whether to require crash-proof enclosures for batteries, potential overcharging dangers and other factors.

"The draft order is due out around October, and it's possible we may be able to lift the passenger-carrying and other restrictions before then," Holmes said. He stressed that the limitations included in draft FAA Order 8130.2 as they relate to electric airplanes were always intended to be short-lived.

What about similar restrictions included in the draft order for experimental light sport airplanes that have been converted from ready-to-fly LSAs? "That portion of the order included a typo," Holmes said. "An entire part of one sentence was lopped off." The restriction, he said, is only meant to apply to certain ELSAs that have undergone modifications.

"We didn't realize the error until people started asking us about it," he said. "That's why we put these orders out for public comment."

For the latest on electric airplane developments, see our feature article "Electric Future."

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