Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Light-Sport Chronicles: Profiles In Vision, Randall Fishman

This “garage” builder of electric aircraft wants to quietly change the world

"People who say, 'I want to fly fast, I want to fly high,' on electric power are up against the physics of flight: Twice as much speed takes four times as much thrust. By starting out with an airplane weighing 600 pounds all up and a sink rate of 150 feet per minute, you don't need much energy to keep it flying.

"That's the key right now for electric aircraft: It has to be efficient, it has to be light," continues Fishman. "Current technology won't work for a heavy, high-sink aircraft like a Cessna or even a short-wing kit sport plane. My aircraft do work well because they're light and efficient. They don't need much power to stay up."

That's why so many electric aircraft projects like the Lindbergh LEAP award-winning Pipistrel Taurus Electro, solar-powered Sunseeker II and Solar Impulse globe-hurdling project, and the new two-seat eGenius sponsored by Airbus are, in essence, motorgliders.

Who does Fishman think will succeed at bringing viable electrics to the market? "Yuneec certainly could. They have a lot of irons in the fire. The Cri-Cri uses four model aircraft motors. It's cool. But merely getting something to fly electrically is not the thinking you need.

There's no new technology there; it's not leading us anywhere.

"There are projects like Elektra One that use a nice big outrunner motor, but at more than $140,000, I don't see it doing much. We want to sell something at around $40,000."

Fishman adds, "The 20-meter-span Antares 20E motorglider is terrific. But it's not what I'm going for. I want something a regular pilot can operate out of a regular airport or field."

Fishman's take on the imminent future of electric flight: "Everybody who drives locally should use an electric car. If you want to go cross country, take your SUV. It's the same with electric planes. For local flying, go electric. Fly cheap, enjoy your flying. My ElectraFlyer C costs 75 cents for a full charge!

"I see electric flight as much closer to the pure dream of flying. The experience is so much better. It's the closest thing to being a bird, without eating the worms. Right now, you can take off, fly around for hours, soar when there's lift, and with almost no noise. What's better than that? It's a fantastic way to fly!"

Now, how's that for a vision?


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