Electric Aircraft Round-up at AirVenture

Electric power for aircraft has captured the imaginations of several designers. China's Yuneec International is expanding its series of electric aircraft. Its e430 first appeared at AirVenture 2009, and since then the company has completed an entire factory in Shanghai. Managing director Clive Coote said Yuneec would begin accepting deposits for the e430 following the show. Current estimates call for the 1,050-pound (max takeoff weight) e430 having an endurance of 2.5 to three hours with a useful load/payload of 390 pounds (because it carries no fuel, payload and useful load are the same thing in an electric airplane). First deliveries are expected in late 2011. Cessna has signed on to support Bye Engineering in its bid to develop an electric-powered Skyhawk. Cessna president and CEO Jack Pelton said, "The electric powerplant offers significant benefits, but there are significant challenges to get there. We believe Bye Energy has gotten off to a good start in understanding those challenges and how to overcome them." Bye expects his electric Skyhawk to fly in the first quarter of next year. At the World Electric Symposium during EAA AirVenture last month, Yuneec joined Sonex and Lange Aviation in accepting the Lindbergh Electric Aircraft Prizes — then all three winners donated the cash prizes back to the LEAP organization, an effort to fund projects designed to bring young people into aviation. Yuneec won for its e430; Sonex for developing subsystems and components, and Lange for developing the Antares 20E electric motorglider. At the same event, EAA hero Burt Rutan (round-the-world Voyager designer; SpaceShipOne; VariEze hombuilt; and many more) described his fascination with new electronic remote-control small aircraft that perform amazing aerodynamic feats. He said the ultimate aim of his participation in the forum was, "...to inspire you to try new stuff."

Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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