Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Light-Sport Chronicles: The Lindbergh Way

More insights into aviation’s electrifying future from Erik Lindbergh

Last month, I shared Erik Lindbergh's highlights of his first solo flight in an ultralight aircraft—that just happened to be an electric-powered airplane: the GreenWing International eSpyder e280. Erik is the aviation and space tourism advocate, accomplished pilot and grandson of visionary legend Charles Lindbergh and writer/pilot Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

He not only flew the New Spirit of St. Louis (a Lancair Columbia 300) across the Atlantic in 2002 to commemorate his grandfather's immortal flight, but remains a highly visible and influential figure in his efforts to raise awareness of aviation's expansive future. As we moved beyond his reminiscence of the eSpyder flight, I asked whether he thought there would be a strong market for the $39,900 Experimental Amateur-Built eSpyder kit.

"I don't really have an opinion," he replied. "I do believe it's the beginning, the crest of a forming wave. Based on what many people have told me, electric propulsion is the future of aviation, probably all forms of aviation, eventually."

He acknowledged it'll take "a while" to get there, but noted the significance of the eSpyder being the first purely electric aircraft to be certified (to Germany's DULV standard).

"That makes it like the JN-4 Jenny my grandfather barnstormed in. It represents a similar stage of progress: We're entering a kind of barnstorming era for electric flight," Lindberg said.

He talked about the major innovators he has known in the new industry: Yuneec's Tian Yu, Pipistrel's Ivo Boscarol, John Monnett of Sonex and André Borschberg, cofounder of the highly visible Solar Impulse project, which aims to fly around the world entirely on solar power.

"These guys are every bit as colorful, interesting, daring and willing to risk their money and livelihoods as the Bill Boeings and Clyde Cessnas of the Golden Age," Lindbergh continued.


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