Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Light-Sport Chronicles: Prop-Pourri

An “All Things Considered” approach to aviation innovation

One of my favorite websites is Gizmag, a kind of Dyson vacuum for all the latest tech/science/gadget newsbits that come at us every day.

Innovation in aviation continually accelerates and frequently astounds. To start the new year off right, I thought I'd range afield a bit from solely LSA topics to graze, Gizmag-style, on some cool stories I've been gathering in my goodie file.

First up, that wild west world of aircraft innovation: electric propulsion. Beyond the GreenWing/Yuneec eSpyder electric LSA I flew and wrote up recently, let's consider two high-profile stories— Solar Impulse and a speed-crazed daredevil named Chip Yates.

Solar Impulse flew across America last summer on the sun's radiation alone. The two-month low-speed sun chase served as overture for the project's stated goal: a nonstop global circumnavigation to raise consciousness of alternative power's potential—and importance—to all our energy futures.

Meanwhile, electric motorcycle record setter/innovator Chip Yates continued to carve out his own e-niche by setting five electric-flight world records in a highly modified Long-ESA canard plane:

1-kilometer (0.62 miles) closed- course speed record: 216.9 mph

500-meter (1,640 feet) time to climb from standing stop: 62.58 seconds

3,000-meter (9,843 feet) time-to-climb in 6 min. 29 sec.

Highest altitude (14,700 feet)

Highest sustained altitude (14,700 feet for 90 seconds)

His goal: to show electric aircraft don't have to be slow and "boring."

Meanwhile, my guest here last month, Erik Lindbergh, envisions a $10 million XPRIZE for the first four-place all-electric aircraft to fly across the Atlantic.

E-Genius, the German electric that took second to Pipistrel's Taurus G4 in 2011's NASA/CAFE $1.65 million Green Flight Challenge, continues to push the envelope. Recent flights include 244 miles on a single charge and a two-hour-40-minute triangle course run of 252.5 miles, with one charge en route, that ended with 30 minutes reserve.


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