Pipistrel announced that its Alpha Electro airplane has broken several electric flight records, including the longest all-electric flight. The flight was conducted by Adelaide, Australia-based flight training and aircraft sales company Eyre to There Aviation in partnership with sponsors AvPlan EFB, Aerometrex, West Coast Bitumen and Recreational Aviation Australia (RA-Aus). The airplane flew 730 nm, from Parafield to Eyre to There Aviation’s headquarters in Adelaide, shattering the previous electric flight endurance world record of 405 nm. Eyre to There Aviation hopes to set up a manufacturing facility in Adelaide to produce up to 40 Pipistrel Alpha Electro airplanes annually.
Additional electric airplane records broken by the team include longest over-water flight (16.6 nm), furthest distance over a 24-hour period (178 nm) and fastest speed between waypoints (96 knots), Pipistrel said.
The record flights didn’t come without challenges. “It’s been a mammoth effort by everyone involved to achieve this incredible feat. The weather hasn’t exactly been on our side – we had ice on the wings one morning and were grounded in Port Lincoln due to an intense low-pressure system,” Eyre to There Aviation’s managing director Barrie Rogers says. “On the plus side, the aircraft and the recharging systems have held up incredibly well. It has gone a long way to proving the endurance and reliability of the Pipistrel Alpha Electro plane.”
Since the airplane can only fly about 95 nm before recharging, and since charging stations are scarce, the record flight required a significant support team. The team included five ground support crew members, a second support (gas-powered) plane, two vehicles carrying recharging equipment for the aircraft and three pilots.
The two-seat Pipistrel Alpha Electro is powered by the company’s own PEM 60MVLC motor, producing 50 kW at 2,100-2,400 rpm in cruise. Its payload is 400 pounds, which doesn’t seem like much, but without the need for fuel it can carry two average sized adults and a couple of bags. Pipistrel claims that the takeoff run on grass (the factory in Ajdovščina, Slovenia, is situated adjacent to a grass runway) is 555 feet. The light airplane has achieved airworthiness approval from several countries around the world, including the United States and Canada.
As a note, the records do not take into consideration Solar Impulse’s nominally all-electric flight around the world, which was conducted using solar power.