Watch the First Flight of a Piloted Electric Race Airplane

Historic journey paves the way for high-speed Air Race E series in 2023.

After years of development and delays, Air Race E has carried out the first piloted flight of an all-electric race airplane. 

The 10-minute test flight by the Nordic Air Racing team took place January 28 at Jarlsberg, Norway’s Tønsberg Airport (ENJB). Organizers said it represents a significant breakthrough, not only in the sport of air racing, but across the entire aviation industry. 

The flight paves the way for the world’s first electric air race series, Air Race E, which is scheduled for 2023.

“We are delighted that it went so well,” said Tomas Brødreskift, Nordic Air Racing’s team principal for mechanical integration and project manager in a statement. “No matter how well prepared you are, and how confident you are after ground tests, seeing a test pilot take to the skies for the first time in an aircraft you designed is always a nail-biting moment…It’s time to celebrate now!”

The Flight

During the first flight, pilot Rein Inge Hoff took the controls of an Air Race E-specification aircraft—a specifically converted Cassutt IIIM formula race airplane—and completed four circuits of the airfield at 2,000 feet.

Hoff performed slow flight and control tests with 90kW of power and working up to a speed of 140 kts, which organizers said is about 50 to 60 percent of the airplane’s eventual potential in full racing trim.

During the coming weeks, additional test flights aim to fine-tune the high-performance aspects of the aircraft.

Nordic Air Racing is one of 17 teams participating in the series. In addition to Open Class, Air Race E plans two additional categories—a partly-standardized Performance Class and an eVTOL Class.

First announced in 2019 and originally planned for 2020, Air Race E has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, like most of the entire aviation industry.

The Race Format

Headed by international air racing promoter Jeff Zaltman, Air Race E will pit some of the world’s top pilots against each other head to head at a number of high-profile events around the world. The races will follow a similar format as the popular Air Race 1 series, known as Formula One Air racing. Eight electric-powered airplanes will race directly against each other on a tight 5-kilometer circuit, flying only 10 meters above the ground at speeds exceeding 400 km/h (217 knots), according to organizers.

Supported by founding partner Airbus, the race also aims to help advance the process of aircraft electrification. 

“More than ever, when we look at the concept of sustainable mobility, the challenges push us to work differently, to be disruptive and to use the learnings and achievements from a mix of sectors,” said Karim Mokaddem, Airbus electrification fast track leader. “In this case, flying aircraft using tried and tested electric technologies from the automotive industry is proof of that and is an approach we fully support as part of our electrification journey.”


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