Perth-based Electro.Aero has completed the first Australian flight of a production-built electric light sport aircraft made by Slovenia-based Pipistrel.
The Pipistrel Alpha Electro two-seater, which received Australian certification in late 2017, took off from Perth’s Jandakot Airport on Tuesday.
The aircraft, which carries Recreational Aviation Australia (RAAus) light sport aircraft registration 23-0938, conducted two circuits around Jandakot.
It is the first flight of a production electric aircraft in Australia, notwithstanding some experimental flights undertaken previously.
Electro.Aero finance director Richard Charlton said it was a smooth first flight.
“It was very much without drama. We were just in the pattern behind a normal aeroplane and the control tower was very excited. They knew all about what was happening,” Charlton told Australian Aviation from Perth on Wednesday.
Charlton said the key difference between its factory-built Alpha Electro and other previous electric aircraft was that the Pipistrel has been certified to take paying students and fly out of controlled airports.
For now, the company is offering trial instructional flights with the Alpha Electro, with a view to eventually offering ab-initio flight training for a recreational pilot certificate.
“RAAus is planning to introduce an electric powerplant endorsement in the near future, as the engine management is very different – and much simpler – compared to petrol engines,” Charlton said.
“So what we are saying is we are offering trial instructional flights right now with a view to doing training all the way to pilot certificate in the near future.”
The Pipistrel Alpha Electro features a 60kW electric engine and has a cruise speed of 85 knots. It received a Special Certificate of Airworthiness from Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) in October 2017 and is registered by RAAus.
Its battery capacity has enough endurance to fly the aircraft for 60 minutes with a 30-minute reserve.
The maximum takeoff weight is 550kg, according to the Electro.Aero website.
Charlton said the aircraft was much quieter and cheaper to operate than equivalent-sized aircraft powered by piston engines.
“The main issue with petrol is the maintenance costs of what is a more complex engine,” Charlton said.
“The electric engine is really simple. It has one moving part, it’s a very small piece of equipment and it is a solid-state motor.”
The chief executive of Slovenia-based Pipistrel Ivo Boscarol said an all-electric training aircraft would help lower the cost of becoming a pilot.
“Technologies developed specially for this aircraft cut the cost of ab-initio pilot training by as much as 70 per cent, making flying more affordable than ever before,” Boscarol said on the Pipistrel website.
“Being able to conduct training on smaller airfields closer to towns with zero CO2 emissions and minimum noise is also a game changer.”
The aircraft’s development was supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program.
(Note: The headline and opening paragraph has been changed since the original article first appeared on Wednesday to clarity the aircraft was manufactured by Slovenia-based Pipistrel.)