How long before an electric Cessna 172 is available for flight training? That is the question, and the answer may well be "sooner than you think." Cessna Aircraft, ever the leader in innovation (remember the original Citation 500) is working with Bye Energy to design a proof-of-concept Cessna 172 aircraft powered by an electric powerplant. You may wonder if this is a serious effort, or some strange turn has been taken at Cessna. Well, consider this: Burt Rutan, another aviation pioneer and dreamer addressed the World Electric Symposium at the Experimental Aircraft Association museum during AirVenture 2010 where he speculated about the possibilities of self-launching electric sailplanes, and conventional aircraft with backup electrical propulsion systems to amazing electrical powered aerobatic airplanes. If Burt Rutan is dreaming of these things, who amongst us can question that these ideas are part of the future of aviation. And, why not! Aviation has always been a leader in technological advancements, ever since that fateful day in December when the Wright Brothers flew the world's first heavier-than-air powered aircraft carrying man, the Wright Flyer. Throughout the years incredible advances in technology have improved the lives of our citizens, and when the space age dawned those advance accelerated producing many of the things we take for granted as every day things today: computers, microwave ovens, cell phones and more. Imagine an aircraft with an electrical emergency power plant which could provide just enough energy to an approach or go-around if the primary engine were to fail. And Cessna has delivered over 43,000 Cessna 172s, the aircraft I learned to fly in. Bye Energy envisions an APU (auxiliary power unit) fueled by jet fuel driving an electric motor which powers the electric Skyhawk. The company feels they can have the proof-of-concept model flying by years end. At the World Symposium of Electric Flight the first Lindbergh Electric Aircraft Prizes were awarded and, according to Erik Lindbergh, “The Lindbergh Electric Aircraft Prize (LEAP) is the culmination of my work over the last two decades in aviation, education and prize philanthropy. LEAP accelerates the development of the electric aircraft industry and provides the perfect focal point to light up both kids and adults. We are inspiring the next generation to investigate, showcase and leverage solutions for aviation and beyond.” Add to all of this the incredible achievement of flying a solar powered aircraft for 26 hours non-stop without using a drop of fuel and can anyone question whether electric aircraft have a future? The HB-SIA carbon-fiber aircraft single-seat plane averaged 23 knots Solar Impulse has ushered in the race to develop more technologies for electric powered aircraft. What do you think about electric power for aircraft? Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7 Nothing can prevent us from another day and night, and the myth of perpetual flight. — Bertrand Piccard, co-founder of Solar Impulse, the first manned airplane to stay aloft on battery power through a night. After 26 hours aloft, pilot Andre Borschberg landed the solar-powered four-engine aircraft with a net positive charge in the batteries. Morning of 8 July 2010 ps: Don't forget to sign up for our newsletter "All Things Aviation" here!
by John M. White •