A new motor from Australia, the MagniX Magni5, promises 300 kilowatts (402 horsepower) from a 53-kilogram (116.6-pound) package, or about five kW per kilogram.  This is competitive with other power-dense permanent magnet motors.

Torque Line is flat from zero to 2,500 rpm top speed of Magni5 motor, with impressive 1,000 Nm output

The Magni5 claims an absolutely flat torque curve (more a line, really) from zero to 2,500 rpm, producing 1,000 Newton-meters (737.5 foot-pounds) throughout its revolution range.  This is a great deal like steam locomotive performance.  Its 444 millimeter (17.5 inches) diameter and 275 mm (10.8 inches) size is perfect to hide behind a propeller spinner.  The torque should guarantee a good rate of climb, and might be a worthy candidate for powering a Pikes Peak International Hill Climb contender.

The company certainly seems to be on track for designing around aircraft use, promoting their expertise and that of partners with a “Strong background in [the] FAA certification process.”

MagniX claims, “The magni5 uses a combination of advanced electromagnetic designs and materials, optimized motor topology, and a proprietary cooling system to deliver exceptional power and torque density with great efficiency.”

MagniAlpha superconducting stator promises extraordinary performance

Even more promising, MagniX’s technology is apparently on the verge of creating a superconducting MagniAlpha motor that could product 25kW per kilogram.  That would power an ultralight with a 2.2-pound motor, or a Light Sport Aircraft from a mere eight or nine pound powerplant, leaving extra poundage for batteries.  MagniX is not without experience in superconductivity, explaining, “We build superconducting generators for energy-intensive industries such as smelting and hydrogen fuel production. Our superconducting generators are the most advanced and efficient in the world.”

Magni5 performance is already impressive, and superconducting MagniAlpha would provide five times that

To maintain safe operation and predictive maintenance, MagniX’s Xbrain is an intelligent control unit with artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms enabling a “military grade” safety system.  Xbrain enables an advanced heat management system for the liquid-cooled motor, and multiple layers of redundancy.  If the motor has the same relative torque density as the Magni5, it would be, in the words of its creators, “a transformational advancement.”

The company provides design and implementation services to those interested in its products.  Its personnel programs seem to encourage a culture of creativity and accomplishment we hope will be reflected in future products.

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Flynano is a Finnish aircraft design and manufacturing team, working since 2011 to achieve a first electrified flight of their appropriately named craft.

Flynano’s joined wings eliminate need for conventional horizontal tail

First, the 70 kilogram empty weight is notable.  It includes battery weight, but only for 1.7 kilowatt-hour power source that allows a 15-minute dash across the surface of a fairly calm lake.  Its up to 100 kilogram (220 pound) pilot is snugly fitted within its 3.8 meter (12.47 feet) length, and carried aloft on a pair of joined wings a mere 4.8 meters (15.75 feet) in span.

Most videos show the craft flying in or very near ground effect, and the company seems to think customers will be happier zooming around just above the water.  In response to the “frequently asked question,” they respond, “For some reason this is the most frequently asked question. Even if technically FlyNanos could be flown up to around 5 000 meters (16 000 feet), the use case for the FlyNanos is to fly them low, around 30–150 meters (100–500 feet). These low heights provide the greatest feeling of speed and exhilaration, enhanced with the open cockpit of the plane. As the battery capacity is the main limiting factor for the flying time, the use case includes also battery changes and multiple take-offs and landings, resulting to the low flying altitudes in their own part.”

Unreported in the specifications, rate-of-climb can only be estimated from the upward leaps in the videos, but the 10 to 15-minute battery duration in cruise would keep one from getting too high, and might lead to dead-stick landings following a long glide back to the lake.  Flynano’s 32-kilowatt MGM Compro motor would drain the battery in only a little over three minutes at full throttle, so high-altitude explorations are probably not a realm of flight in which Flynano will excel.

That calm lake should be at least 5° Celsius (41° Fahrenheit) with waves no higher than 10 centimeters (slightly under two inches), so Flynano might be limited to nice days.  Flight is limited to winds less than 11 mph.  Considering the manufacturer recommends appropriate wet-suit attire, pilots will doubtless prefer sunnier climes, a big contrast to the October coolness of the airplane’s native Finland.   This would be fun on the Mediterranean or on Lake Tahoe in summer.

 

“The head designer, Aki Suokas, has worked in the aviation industry for more than 30 years now and successfully designed several well-known airplanes, including PIK-20, PIK-23 and PIK-27,” according to his company’s FAQ

One big question for the potential buyer is how much money is that much fun worth?  Flynano quotes an 85,000 euro ($100,573) price (minus taxes, customs, and shipping) for “the first fully-packed signature editions.”  On the plus side, operating costs will be nil and the motor will require almost no maintenance.  Reciprocating engines are always in need of something, so the continuous flying allowed by little downtime for anything but swapping battery packs will only add to the carefree enjoyment of the craft.

If one can accept the current limitations of the airplane and the possible sticker shock, Flynano might be an exciting aerial substitute for more traditional modes of watersport.

Addendum (May 17): Where is the instrument panel?  On the pilot’s helmet or goggles in the form of a heads-up display.  

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Echoing, in this editor’s mind, the collaboration between Oxford University and YASA motors, a recently announced motor from Belgium’s Ghent University and Magnax, makers of what they term an “axial flux machine.”  Similar to YASA’s products, the motors are yokeless, which the makers claim promotes lower weight and the shortest possible flux path.

Beyond this feature, the motor/generators offer “A patented system for cooling the windings, for the lowest possible stator temperatures.”  According to Magnax, their Dual permanent magnet rotors give “the highest possible torque-to-weight ratio.”  Rectangular section copper wire fills more area than round wire and concentrated windings allow “the lowest possible copper losses (no coil overhangs).”  Grain-oriented electric steel lowers “core losses by as much as 85-percent.”

The company’s white paper gives graphic and written explanations as to why these factors enable the Magnax motors to achieve 96-percent efficiency.  While the company compares their motors to large, stationary industrial motors which apply radial flux to their operation, it might be more productive to compare them to other lightweight axial flux units, such as those from Emrax or YASA.

Exploded view of Magnax motor shows key features

Magnax shows, in its white paper, that their motors can be as small as 150 millimeters (5.9 inches) in diameter to over 5,400 mm (212.6 inches).  The larger sizes would be destined for industrial or wind turbine applications.

Emrax motors range from 188 mm to 348 mm, all designed for power applications on lightweight devices.  The 188 mm unit produces 70 kilowatts (93.8 pounds) from 6.8 kg. (14.96 pounds), while the 348 mm motor can put out 300 kW (402 hp.) from its 40 kilogram (88 pound) mass.  Peak torques for the larger motor is a massive 1,000 Newton-meters (737 foot-pounds).  The 188 produces 6.27 hp. per pound: the 348 makes about 4.6 hp. per pound.

Magnax motor as it might be mounted in a light aircraft

Magnax’s white paper makes a direct comparison between YASA’s P400S and their AXF275.   The 305 mm. diameter P400S weighs 27 kilograms (59.4 pounds), while the AXF275 (mm. diameter) weighs 24 kg. (52.8 pounds).  The P400S puts out 160 kilowatts for a maximum power density of 5.92 kilowatts per kilogram.  Magnax takes it up a notch, though, with its claimed 300 kilowatt maximum power for a power density of 12.5 kilowatts per kilogram.

The company hopes to have production motors available by the end of this year, with some introductions in October.  With direct drive and significant power-to-weight ratios, Magnax’s intended markets in transportation and wind turbines seem like logical places to see this technology in action.  Now, if we could see a similar improvement in batteries….

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Lange Aviation explained the large glider-like machine on display at the 2018 Aero Expo this way: “During this year’s AERO in Friedrichshafen, a mock-up of the Antares E2 was displayed publicly for the first time by our sister company, Lange Research Aircraft GmbH. The Antares E2 is an aircraft with an extreme endurance and very high reliability, which has been designed primarily to address maritime monitoring tasks such as fishery control. In order to fulfill the design goals, a novel propulsive system using six fuel-cell systems and six over-wing propulsors has been developed.

Lange E2 garnered considerable media attention

 A Large, Heavy Machine Beyond Glider Status

Weighing in at a hefty 1,650 kilograms (3,630 pounds), the Lange E2 carries that weight on a 23 meter (75.45 feet) wingspan.  Part of that is the 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of methanol that powers the six 6.7 kilowatt (8.98 horsepower) fuel cells that in turn power the six 15 kilowatt (20.1 hp.) motors.

High wing loading brings high speed, the E2 capable of a top rate of 135 knots (155.25 mph) and a stall speed of 62 knots (68.2 mph).  Clean design and the efficiency of fuel cells enables an endurance of up to 40 hours, a range of 5.400 kilometers (3,348 miles).  It can carry a 200 kilogram (440 pound) payload to 20,000 feet and power its sensors and communications links with a four-kilowatt, 28 Volt DC power supply.

As noted on Lange’s web site, “’The E2 is only a glider at first glance,’ says CEO Axel Lange, in fact, it is a flying sensor platform for research purposes, which can remain in the air with fuel cell drive about 40 hours in the air….’”  Initial tests will be performed with a manned version, but later, the E2 will fly autonomously on missions such as border patrols or identification of marine pollution.

Lange E2 pilot will have a formidable array to monitor. Later flights will be autonomous

Lange emphasizes redundancy onboard the E2.  Besides a quadruple redundant main computer, systems include:

  • 6 x fuel cells with reformer and DC / DC
  • 6 x propulsors with integrated inverters
  • 2 x propulsive power bus, reconfigurable
  • 3 x system power bus, SOH voting
  • 9 x data-bus in three branches (CAN)

Lange Antares E2 feature multiple redundant systems

Methanol Fuel Cell Economy

The Antares E2’s energy supply uses fuel cells with an integrated methanol reformer system claimed to be “superior to other forms of energy supply, especially when there is a long-term and constant need for energy.  This is because the reformer allows the extraction of much higher energy than standard burner motors.”

Methanol fuel cells enable 40-hour missions

For additional energy during maneuvers such as takeoffs, the system uses lithium-ion battery modules mounted in the wing inner nose.  According to Lange, “Each cell is voltage and temperature-monitored with multiple redundancies. In addition, the modules have battery-heating systems in order to allow use at optimal temperature ranges.”

The fuel cell system, with an inverter from Elmo Motion Control, was tested at Lange.  Five other systems built by Serenergy passed the Factory Acceptance Test. All the DC-DC converters were therefore built and successfully tested.

Efficiency and Economy for Future Missions

Lange Research notes, “Observation and surveillance missions are mostly implemented by using conventional, ie petrol-driven, aircrafts.  The Antares E2 wants to make the implementation of missions much more efficient due to its lesser fuel consumption and lower costs of preparation.  This new economic efficiency also wants to open the market for new missions, which are not yet ready for their high cost.”

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Alpha Electro Achieves FAA Certification

A Big Day in Fresno

Following certification for Pipistrel’s Alpha Electro trainer in Australia, China, and Canada, the FAA presented this highly-valued acknowledgment that the aircraft meets current airworthiness standards.  After waiting for the agency to remove the restrictive word “reciprocating” from its Light Sport Aircraft regulations, electric aircraft designers have permission to field aircraft with truly modern powerplants.

With FAA inspectors painstakingly perusing every part of the Electros, a formal presentation followed, enabling the Sustainable Aviation Project to move forward with plans to bring low-cost pilot training to the Fresno, California area.

FAA officials display certification document for Alpha Electro trainer, a first in America

Officials from the four cities in which Alpha Electros will be hangared were on hand to lend encouragement during the public flight displays of the aircraft.

For a thoroughly modern design, the Alpha Electro is very light, at 368 kilograms (809 pounds) with batteries.  Compare that to a Piper J3 Cub, which with a 65-horsepower Continental engine weighed 765 pounds empty.  Adding 12 gallons of gasoline to fill its tank, though, would have given a weight of 837 pounds.  Even that Cub would have used a minimum of four gallons an hour – $20 worth of non-renewable resources.

The trainers are priced around $130,000 and with projected $3 per hour direct operating costs should fulfill their mission to bring flight training to a broader audience.

You can see videos of the Alpha Electros flying and various local dignitaries commenting on the event here and here.

Meanwhile, at Cypress College, Virtually

Sabi Apai, Pipistrel’s California dealer, delivered the second X-ALPHA Virtual Reality trainer to Cypress College, a community college located about 25 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles.  The first simulator has been operating at Compton Airport for several months, and more such units are anticipated in the Los Angeles and Central Valley regions.

Sabi Apai (standing) delivers virtual reality trainer to Cypress College

As reported by Apai, the simulator had to be lifted up “several flights of stairs (with the help of several students) because we missed out on using the service elevator by about half an inch.

“After unpacking and installing the systems that have been removed for transit we nervously turned on the power switch and to my surprise (because it meant we had everything plugged in correctly) everything fired up and within minutes we had staff and students in the simulator with a grin from ear-to-ear.”

The virtual reality part is a huge sales point for this system.  According to Pipistrel, “The single most important element of our simulator system is virtual reality.

“The X-ALPHA uses VR (Virtual Reality) headset instead of the usual monitors.

“This is a huge advantage because the headset allows the pilot a 360-degree view of the cockpit and the landscape. You can lean closer to the instrument panel to read the marks written in smaller font, look through the window and check if the landing gear is still in one piece after the landing or whether the flaps are indeed in the second position and did I mention sound?  Sound comes through the VR headset that replicates the throttle setting and noise of the actual aircraft.”

You can find more information about the X-ALPHA Virtual Reality simulator at this link.

With highly developed and refined flight vehicles and simulators, coupled with quiet electric power and economy of operation, Pipistrel could be leading the way in introducing new and returning student pilots to a green aviation future.

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Two Siemens-Powered Electric Aircraft Debut

A U. S. Debut in Chicago

Mary Grady, writing in AVweb, reports thatSiemens brought its prototype electric aircraft to the U.S. this week for the first time, showcasing the airplane at the company’s Innovation Day in Chicago. ‘Electric propulsion is one of the transformative technologies that will help the industry meet the goals of reduced fuel, emissions and noise,’ said Teri Hamlin, vice president of electric propulsion for Siemens. ‘By accomplishing testing on our systems on select flying testbeds in the lower power classes, we are gaining valuable experience and knowledge that accelerates and validates our other developments in hybrid-electric propulsion systems in the high power classes.’“

Testing in Waco

Further testing of the technology will take place in Waco, Texas, at the Texas State Technical College Airfield.  The eFusion with its Siemens 55-kilowatt electric propulsion unit, “Will be key in data collection on new electric propulsion systems, enabling safety standards and certification efforts for the aerospace market.”  Lessons learned from the eFusion will benefit Airbus on their “City Airbus” demonstrator, a VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) craft designed for urban mobility in conjunction with Roll-Royce and Siemens.

A Double-Play at Friedrichshafen

Following last season’s twin battery-powered Magnus eFusion formation flight at the Smart Flyer Challenge in Switzerland, Siemens and Magnus showed up at Aero Expo in Friedrichshafen with a battery electric eFusion and a hybrid eFusion powered by a Siemens motor and an EcoFly Diesel unit based on a Mercedes Smart Car engine.

Siemens Magnus eFusions in formation, trailed by a Rotax-powered version

The battery-powered eFusion is very much what was shown at the Smart Flyer Challenge, with the addition of a new, compact inverter (see below).

The hybrid version manages to fill an engine compartment with a Siemens SP55D motor, an Ecofly 800-cubic-centimeter Diesel engine, batteries and electronic control gear.  The airplane doubtless loses some batteries, allowing the weight of the 89 kilogram (195.8 pound) engine to be accommodated.

Its frugal sipping of Diesel fuel or Jet-A at seven liters (1.85 U. S. gallons) per hour will enable this Light Sport Aircraft to range far afield   For comparison, the Magnus 212 on which the hybrid is based consumes 16 to 21 liters per hour, typical of Rotax-powered Light Sport Aircraft.  Because of this economy, Ecofly claims an astonishing range of 4,000 kilometers (2,480 miles) for the engine powering their FK9 testbed.

Hybridization might be an intermediate answer for light aircraft while we wait for the ever-promised 10X batteries of the future.

Although the Smart Car engine is not as aesthetically pleasing as many opposed cylinder flat-fours, its economical ways may win over many .

An Ultralight Inverter/Motor Controller

Siemens claims their tiny inverter has the highest power density for electric and hybrid-electric aircraft. Flying in their Magnus eFusion electric test plane, the Siemens inverter “SD104” uses silicon-carbide semiconductors and has a micro channel cooling plate. The power electronics fit in a box of 47millimeters by 94mm by141mm (1.85 inches by 3.7 inches by 5.55 inches)  and weighs only 900grams (1.98 pounds).  It delivers a maximum of 104kVA of propulsive power.

Siemens Magnus eFusion hybrid, with compact inverter atop unit to right

With ongoing efforts to develop power electronics and lighter, more powerful motors, Siemens seems to be positioning itself to provide electric propulsion to a wide range of aircraft – from ultralights to urban sky taxis to future airliners.

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Its translucent wing shimmering on the wall above Hall A7 at Friedrichshafen’s 2018 Aero Expo, A-I-R’s ATOS Wing commanded the attention of show goers.  A-I-R (Aeronautic Innovation Rühle & Co GmbH) produces a line of ultralight hang gliders and electrically-powered craft based on a common wing design modified for different weight and performance requirements.  Note the large wing at about 35 seconds into this perambulation around Hall A7, along with tantalizing glimpses of the other displays that we will cover in the near future.

Although ethereal in appearance, ATOS wings can carry significant loads compared to their minimal weight.  The 50 kilogram (110 pound) VRS 280, for instance, can carry an all-up weight of 330 kilograms (726 pounds), an impressive structural weight to gross weight ratio.  Coupled with the Wing’s 28:1 claimed glide ratio and 0.55 meters per second (108.3 feet per minute) rate of sink, the Wing will allow long, lazy glides from altitude and even permit modest cross-country flights.

A-I-R ATOS Wing coupled with somewhat conventional fuselage and FES-like folding propeller ostensibly allows 28:1 glide ratio

The electrified Wing fits in the 120 kilogram (264 pounds) empty weight category and can carry up to a 110-kilogram (242 pound) pilot.  The 506 pound total carried on a 14.5 meter (47.6 feet) span equals a very light span loading of 10.6 pounds per foot.  A high-performance 15-meter class sailplane such as a Windward Performance Duckhawk carries 19.5 pounds per foot of span.

Variations using different forms of the basic wing and the ubiquitous Eck/Geiger electric motors showed up at last year’s Greilinger Elektroflugtage (Greilinger Electric Flying Days). This was the second outing for the event and “A forum for the exchange of pilots among themselves and between the manufacturers of aircraft and components instead.  Devices were shown from the model airplane to the aircraft of the 120 KG class.”

As a report on the get-together explains, must of the hang gliders and “trike” setups had ATOS wings and Eck/Geiger motors.  A-I-R allows the use of its wing’s many variants on myriad platforms, and continues to develop new ways of exploiting their strength and aerodynamic finesse.  This efficiency enables surprising performance on limited power, and excellent gliding performance allows the use of smaller battery packs.

These ultralight developments could bring back, in a new and improved way, the old part 103, only transfigured into quiet, green machines with low operating costs and much better reliability than the noisy two-stroke engines that once powered these craft.  It’s a future for low-cost flight that is worth exploring.

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Battery Options for Range and Longevity

Two varying approaches to battery development may hold clues to future directions for energy storage.  At the same time, their announcements, promising as they seem, reinforce our cautious attitudes toward how battery performance numbers are presented.

PNNL Attacks the Electrolyte Issue

According to Green Optimistic, “Researchers from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have developed a new formula for battery’s electrolyte solution to enhance its performance unprecedentedly in terms of its service life and storage capacity or an electric vehicle’s range.”

The video gives an overview of what it takes to make a battery and hints at the reasons battery research takes so long to give up improved energy storage devices.

Unprecedented the development may be, and the promise of a battery with a 7X longer lifespan and two-to-three times longer range than currently-available batteries certainly captures our attention.  Its own press release suggests that PNNL researchers are enthusiastic about the longevity of their new chemistry.  “When it comes to the special sauce of batteries, researchers … have discovered it’s all about the salt concentration. By getting the right amount of salt, right where they want it, they’ve demonstrated a small lithium-metal battery can re-charge about seven times more than batteries with conventional electrolytes.

Neither the press release nor the Green Optimistic report, however, provide greater detail about the greater range possible with the new chemistry.  PNNL’s headline gives a clue, “Research hints at double the driving range for electric vehicles.”  Beyond that, they note that “Lithium-metal batteries that replace a graphite electrode with a lithium electrode are the ‘holy grail’ of energy storage systems because lithium has a greater storage capacity and, therefore, a lithium-metal battery has double or triple the storage capacity. That extra power enables electric vehicles to drive more than two times longer between charges.”  That “extra power” in sizes adaptable to EVs may be yet on the horizon, tests having been performed so far on coin-sized test cells.

The “catch” up to now is that the electrolytes used in today’s batteries corrode the electrodes, resulting in shorter overall lives for the cells.

PNNL thinks the key to the battery kingdom lies in electrolytes

PNNL has apparently solved this set of opposing forces with a new “secret sauce” that contains the right amount of lithium salts.  “Their study published in the journal Advanced Materials found out that increasing the concentration of lithium-based salt in the electrolyte solution forms a barrier around the electrodes, protecting them from corrosion and ultimately, lengthening the battery life.”  Two more problems arise from this solution, though.

First, the lithium-based salt is expensive.  Second, increased salt concentration increases the electrolyte viscosity and lowers its conductivity.  Researchers found a fluorine-based solvent solved the quandary.

PNNL senior battery researcher Ji Guang “Jason” Zhang said, “We were trying to preserve the advantage of the high concentration of salt, but offset the disadvantages. By combining a fluorine-based solvent to dilute the high concentration electrolyte, our team was able to significantly lower the total lithium salt concentration yet keep its benefits.”

The team’s findings can be found in the March 25 edition of Advanced Materials.

Sion Power Attacks the Electrode Issue

While PNNL researchers investigate myriad chemistries, Sion Power of Tuscon, Arizona, has gained fame for its Lithium-sulfur cells.  It claims its Licerion rechargeable lithium battery is 60-percent lighter than conventional Li-ion batteries, making it desirable for aircraft and drone use.  Licerion technology, though, can be applied to many different battery chemistries, despite the company’s predilections.

Promised performance from Licerion technology would make Sion batteries aeronautically desireable

Promoted as having 500 Watt-hours per kilogram, 1,000 Watt-hours per liter, and capable of enduring 450 charge/discharge cycles, this should be the EV battery everyone has been looking for.  Licerion cells are 10 centimeters X 10 centimeters X 1 centimeter (4” X 4” X 0.3”) and store 20 Amp-hours for what the company claims is “the highest energy density combination currently available.”  That set of dimensions and the claimed energy storage may not confirm the 1,000 W-hrs. per liter, though.

A January 18 press release announcing a production ramp-up of the new cells explains, “At the core of Licerion technology is a protected metallic lithium thin film anode with multiple levels of physical and chemical protection to enhance the safety and life of lithium metal anodes. These anodes are paired with traditional lithium-ion intercalation cathodes.”

Sion’s partnership with BASF gives the firm access to new chemistries and their collaboration with Airbus allows testing of these developments in airborne applications.  We can only hope that the numbers quoted are real-world and made available for commercial opportunities soon.

Pushevs.com remains skeptical, though.  “If it is to work out as dreamed and pitched, though, the Sion Power Licerion battery could be one of the first to bring commercial electric flight to the mass market. Maybe. Perhaps. We’ll see.”

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Comco Ikarus Flies on Electric Power

Relatively unknown to American pilots, Germany’s largest ultralight aircraft manufacturer, Comco Ikarus in Mengen, was able to announce the first flight of its successful two- seater C42 / CS as an electric version just before the start of AERO, the annual aircraft exposition in Friedrichshafen.

Geiger-powered version of Comco Ikarus C42 CS as shown at Aero Expo in Friedrichshafen, Germany

Comco’s C42 CS forms the basis for the electric version.  The avgas-powered version flies with either an 80-horsepower or 100-horsepower Rotax engine, the electric version with a 32-kilowatt (50 horsepower) electric motor from Geiger Engineering.  Geiger’s power package includes their dedicated controller, control lever, and monitoring instrument.  Four battery packs, 15 kilograms (33 pounds) each, power the prototype, but production versions will have six packs, enabling flight times of up to 90 minutes.

Geiger makes a full array of motor, controller, and battery packages available

The first electric flight was completed by Comco Ikarus’ managing director Horst Lieb on April 15, 2018.  Comco notes, “The complete electrical unit with batteries is only marginally more expensive than the combustion version.”

The aircraft, with a span of 8.71 meters (28.6 feet) and an empty weight of 280.5 kilograms (617.1 pounds), is small and lighter than most Light Sport Aircraft (LSAs), and can carry a 192 kilogram (422.4 pound) payload in its Rotax powered version.  The manufacturer explains the airframe had to be modified for electrification but does not list specifications for the battery-powered prototype.  Battery weight with four packs will be 132 pounds, 30 pounds more than the 17-gallons (102 pounds) of fuel carried in the Rotax machines.  Performance on the 50 electrical horsepower will doubtless be less sprightly than for even the 80-horsepower gas edition.

For those concerned that the machine’s light weight might indicate a certain fragility, consider this video your editor chanced upon, showing a C42 pilot chasing a wing-suit flyer down a perilous mountain slope.  Kids, don’t try this at home!  (Or is this a wee bit of digital trickery?)

Canadian and American sales are handled by the Canadian distributor in Ontario, and it will probably be a while before the electric ultralight/LSA becomes available.  If electric prices stay close to those for the LSA models (below $65,000 US) the airplane might be a popular favorite.  After all, over 1,400 have been sold in Europe, making it one of the most popular light aircraft on the continent.

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Sun Flyer Takes to the Air

Following assorted powerplant and taxi texts, the prototype Sun Flyer 2 prototype took to the air over Centennial Airport (KAPA) south of Denver, Colorado.  Further tests will expand speed, altitude, and endurance capabilities, according to Bye Aerospace.

George Bye, Founder and CEO of Bye Aerospace, enthused, “We are excited about the future and the potential the Sun Flyer family of aircraft has to revolutionize general aviation, providing improved affordability and accessibility.  Lower operating costs are key to solving the student pilot drop-out rate, which is curtailing the successful attainment of badly needed airline pilots. The Sun Flyer 2’s $3 hourly operating costs are 10 times lower than traditional piston-engine flight trainers, with no carbon emissions and significantly reduced noise.”

Such economies have probably contributed to the 121 reservations for Sun Flyers by organizations such as Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology, where students might be able to avoid taking out loans to obtain their licenses and ratings.  According to Aviation Week, George claims, “Flight schools desperately need this aircraft,” a step into the future from current hard-working trainers.  Those who’ve grumbled about the lack of shoulder room in current side-by-side machines will find relief in Sun Flyer’s 46-inch wide cabin, which can accommodate two 220-pounders.  Occupants will face an Avidyne glass panel, and can avoid fateful smacks on the ground with the full-airplane ballistic recovery parachute.

featuring a best climb rate of 1,150 fpm; normal speed range of 55-120 kt.; maximum endurance of 3.5 flight hours; super-recharge time of 30 minutes; zero emissions and nearly silent operation, as reported by Aviation Week, Sun Flyer will have a lot to offer students and operators.

With only one moving part in the motor, maintenance will be “minimal,” and Bye estimates operating costs at about $14 per hour.

Batteries are not as efficient at producing the energy per pound that gasoline or Diesel fuels manage, but the LG Chem “MJ1” lithium-ion cells installed in the Sun Flyer are capable of 260 Watt-hours per kilogram.   EPS, Electric Power Systems, is contracted with Bye Aerospace to provide a complete energy package on Sun Flyers – both the two-seat 2 and four-seat 4, which will be brought to market soon.  EPS will supply battery modules (packs), battery management units and power distribution units.

Nathan Milleam, Chief Executive Officer for EPS, says, “This partnership aligns with our shared vision to advance all-electric aircraft for commercial aviation applications.  Our Energy Storage System leverages technology developed for NASA’s X57 platform, that enables our Battery Module to meet stringent FAA safety requirements around containment of cells in thermal runaway at a very light weight.”

Charlie Johnson, Bye Aerospace President, “extremely pleased to launch the test flight phase for the Sun Flyer 2 program,” hailed the “fantastic first flight.”  Bye Aerospace notes the Sun Flyer family of aircraft, including the Sun Flyer 2 and the 4-seat Sun Flyer 4 will be the first FAA-certified, U.S.-sponsored, practical, all-electric airplanes to serve the flight training and general aviation markets.

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