Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, October 8, 2013

I Fly The Body Electric

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

The FlightStar ultralight was developed by my late, great friend Marty Alameda in 1981, at his Flight Designs hang-glider company. Alameda saw the ultralight boom coming, and meant to prosper from it. Pioneer International bought the rights to the FlightStar from him, although he continued its development, much as Peghiny would two decades later.

My part in the 33-year saga of the FlightStar came when I flew it for a flight report for Ultralight Aircraft magazine in 1981.

Now I've closed the circle of synchronicities here in the fully mature, ready-for-prime time, German DULV-certified eSpyder. It's my first electric flight, and it brings back the thrills and chills of my first hang-glider launch in 1973 and ultralight flight in 1980. It's been gratifying to be part of these new waves in aviation...but electric flight will change our world. And the eSpyder is the movement's 1905 Wright Flyer III that was—the first truly practical airplane.

Green Wings For All
Eric Bartsch "got it" about electric flight a few years ago. He's the voluble, super-enthusiastic go-getter in charge of GreenWing International, the eSpyder production company spun off from Yuneec.

Bartsch, a pilot himself, was also an executive at Horizon Hobby—Yuneec's largest customer—and worked closely with Tian Yu for years.

"I would kid Tian that we wrote the checks that paid for Yuneec's electric aviation projects!" he said at Oshkosh, where GreenWing debuted the production eSpyder.

"Tian is the visionary who made it all happen. I'm a management consultant to help him make the dream a reality. I'd watched from the sidelines and talked at length with him about electric flight from the very start. I saw the wings and fuselage mated on the very first E430.

"Six months ago, Tian realized R&D was coming to an end," he remembers. "It needed to become an actual aviation business. He asked me to help make that transition, and GreenWing International was born."

The company produces the airframes, provides service and maintenance, and "gives customers a great experience," Bartsch concludes.

The initial production run for the eSpyder is 50 aircraft: 25 kits for the U.S. market, 25 ready-to-fly units for overseas. Why the difference? There's no legal provision for electric propulsion in the U.S. FAA is still working on revising the Light-Sport Rule, which is rumored to be imminent.

Labels: LSAs

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