Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, October 8, 2013

I Fly The Body Electric

Our exclusive flight of the new, in-production electric eSpyder

I hear a car door slam, then the bark of a dog. Hadn't quite expected that. Extending my arm into the airstream to take a smartphone self-portrait, the clack! of the faux camera shutter is surprisingly audible.

There's nothing so remarkable about any of these summer morning sounds except they're taking place as I fly an open-cockpit, wind-washed, electric-powered production airplane, cruising at 300 feet and 40 mph above the green fields of Oshkosh, Wis.

My bird of silent wing is the new, long-anticipated GreenWing eSpyder LS280. The beautifully appointed ultralight-style airplane, now in production as an easy-build kit, represents a significant step forward in bringing electric flight to the masses.

It has been a long road since the project's first unveiling as a flying prototype at Oshkosh 2009.

Yuneec, the Chinese electric flight company no one in the United States had ever heard of, blossomed like a lotus flower that year. Its beautiful E430 two-seat S-LSA prototype turned every head at AirVenture with its graceful, motorglider-like sculpted wing and sleek composite airframe.

Backing it up was Yuneec's open-air display of ruby-anodized electric motor packages, intended to be strapped on like a backpack to power paragliders and other super-light aircraft.

Sharing the outdoor spotlight with the E430 was the eSpyder prototype.

Tom Peghiny, chief wrangler of Flight Design USA's market-topping CT line of S-LSA, had quietly begun developing an electric-powered version of the gas engine-powered FlightStar ultralight he had produced and sold for years.

Along the way, he partnered with Yuneec, formed by hugely successful electric RC model entrepreneur Tian Yu. Yuneec, in time, bought the project from Peghiny for further development and production.

Labels: LSAs

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