Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, October 8, 2013

I Fly The Body Electric

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

Looking beyond the eSpyder, next year could be another big year for GreenWing, says Bartsch.

"The new two-seat E430 is nothing like the rough fiberglass airplane you saw in 2009. We're now in flight test with conforming prototypes numbers 8 and 9, which are mostly carbon-fiber composite. These new airplanes are completely different in every way.

"We expect to introduce the E430 here next year as a production airplane," Bartsch continues. We should have German DULV certification by the end of this year. We also hope to see the FAA clear the way for electric S-LSA certification shortly."

How It Feels To Fly By Watts
Now to wrap this report up with highlights from my own eSpyder flight.

Ground handling is a snap, thanks to the steerable nosewheel and effective main wheel hydraulic brakes, which actuate with a stick-mounted hand brake.

The little motor (don't call it an engine) torques up as soon as you ease in the "throttle" power level. The power surge is strong and immediate.

Liftoff comes in a hurry: My ground roll was perhaps 250 feet at the full power setting of 24 kW. Climbout is surprisingly robust, nearly 400 fpm, considering the diminutive 32 hp-equivalent electric motor.

In the air, the bird handles much like a heavyish ultralight. Cruising at 40 mph, you want to give it plenty of rudder to aid initial bank: The full-span ailerons pull in a fair amount of adverse yaw.

Chris LeFave, GreenWing's Chief Pilot, urged me to try flying with rudder alone: the yaw-roll coupling from the wing's mild dihedral makes that a breeze.

The aileron response and feel at low speeds is, especially without rudder, a bit heavy but ultralight-typical. Flying closer to max speed of 68 mph livens the handling.

Flying with the wind nipping at your ears, being able to hear the sounds of the two-dimensional world below, is an indescribably giddy pleasure. Loping along at a 10-12 kW power setting, or 50% of full power—a mere 14 hp equivalent!—is truly a kick.

I toyed with extending my flight endurance. It's like hypermiling in my Prius. I kept easing back on the power lever, testing how little energy I could draw from the battery "tanks" and still maintain level flight.

Labels: LSAs

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