Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, October 8, 2013

I Fly The Body Electric

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

Pitch control is smooth and easy. Landing works best carrying a slight touch of power. Rounding out in ground effect a foot or so above ground, then backing off the power (and yes, the prop will stop!) settles you on, pretty as you please. My first landing was a greaser. The eSpyder is a fun, easy bird to fly.

Although I hadn't flown an ultralight solo in a long time, the years melted away in a flash. It was 1981 again, the sky above Oshkosh was filled with colorful ultralights, like butterflies.

The only thing missing was the noise, smell and vibration. But my big smile was there the whole time.

Welcome to the future.

The Four Stages Of Electric Flight

GreenWing International's Eric Bartsch lays out eSpyder's place in the new Electric Age
"I see four stages for electric flight,"Bartsch explains. The first is research and development. We've done that for years now and I'm happy to say we've moved to the second stage: recreation.

"This is no longer a 'future thing,'" he says, "it's a 'now' thing. The technology is ready in a plane that's fun to fly and has an hour duration."

Bartsch identifies flight training as the third phase.

"For that to be successful, you have to take two people up for 90 minutes to two hours.

We will achieve that next year when the E430 enters production. We're excited about what
it will do for flight training and revitalizing general aviation. We believe we've got up to a three-hour flight duration on the E430."

The fourth phase? "It's transportation. We're talking range, payload and speed. No one is there yet in electric aviation and current battery technology is the holdup."

That Last Frontier is being chipped away at daily around the globe. Technology innovators from garage geniuses to giants such as Boeing and Lockheed (ground-based laser refueling, anyone?) are pushing the R&D envelope with almost-daily, exciting breakthroughs. We'll surely have gasoline-equivalent weight and energy storage for electric flight. It's only a matter of time.

Leading technologists anticipate electric- or hybrid-powered airliners and commercial aircraft as soon as 2035. In the interim, expect grassroots aviation efforts to mushroom globally. It's an exciting time once again to be involved in aviation.

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