Electric aircraft have flown for the last six years at the big Oshkosh AirVenture airshow. Randall Fishman started the movement in 2007 showing his ElectraFlyer trike, and then flew his ElectraFlyer C, a single-seater derived from the Moni motorglider the following year. He won the 2008 Stan Dzik Memorial Award For Design Contribution “for the installation of the Electric-Motor power train” and the Dr. August Raspet Award. Last year he displayed his ElectricFlyer ULS, a twin-boom pusher with soaring capabilities.
Others have followed, with Yuneec cruising overhead in 2010, winning the Lindbergh Electric Aircraft Prize (LEAP) prize for the craft’s “significant commercial potential” and “compelling design.”
Dale Kramer, flying his twin-Joby-motored eLazair around the ultralight circuit in 2011, showed the potential for electric motors on an amphibian.
Sonex Aircraft showed its Waiex in its e-Flight Initiative area in the Innovation Pavilion, looking essentially the same as over past years. the company has noted several test flights since its late December, 2010 maiden lift-off, but did not have people on hand when your editor was passing through.
Mark Beierele of Earthstar Aircraft has been a steady presence over the years, and this year demonstrated his eGull 2000 equipped with his latest motor, a Zero Motorcycles 54-horsepower, dual-stator unit. He put on a crowd-pleasing demonstration of the aircraft’s capabilities at the ultralight area on Friday morning, showing under 100-foot takeoff runs and climbing at an appreciable angle, reaching his pattern cruising altitude by the end of the short runway.
Having demonstrated its e430 in 2009, Yuneec returned as Greenwing International, displaying two e-Spyder ultralights, one in the Innovation Pavilion and one on the ultralight flightline. Together, they whirred over the main runway on Thursday, August 1, the first electric formation flight at Oshkosh.
Aviation writer James Lawrence took the controls Friday morning, making his first electric aircraft flight and showing off the craft’s excellent performance as he and Mark Beierle took turns flying the pattern. Both aircraft were far quieter than other ultralights, especially the raucous two-stroke engine powered variety. Their airy passage overhead was noteworthy for even the lack of propeller noise, a sign of good prop design on both airplanes.
Announcers kept referring to this as the future of flight, and wishing they had such an airplane. Perhaps many in the crowd felt the same way as they departed the show. Both Beirele and GreenWing are making their craft available, at around the same $40,000 price range. Considering each comes with batteries that could provide up to 1,000 flights at a $1.00 per charge cost, they could bring back budget fun flying, quietly and vibration free.