Electro.Aero completes first flight of Pipistrel-made electric light sport aircraft in Australia

Electro.Aero's Pipistrel Alpha Electro gets airborne from Perth's Jandakot Airport. (Electro.Aero/Facebook)
Electro.Aero’s Pipistrel Alpha Electro gets airborne from Perth’s Jandakot Airport. (Electro.Aero/Facebook)

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 aircraft did two standard circuits at Perth's Jandakot Airport. (Electro.Aero/Facebook)
The aircraft did two standard circuits at Perth’s Jandakot Airport. (Electro.Aero/Facebook)

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.

A look at the panel of the Pipistrel Alpha Electro. (Electro.Aero)
A look at the panel of the Pipistrel Alpha Electro. (Electro.Aero)

(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.)

Comments

  1. Tomcat Terry says

    Well it’s about time a Western Australian company gets well deserved recognition for such a remarkable electric aircraft. Especially for a state of its population size that has a remarkable history in engineering and technological prowess in aviation, ship building.
    Thanks AA for reminding us that there is a clever state over there to the west.

  2. Pontius the pilot says

    Could be the right answer for those wanting to establish Frogs Hollow training airfield near Bega, which is experiencing a lot of local push back on a noise basis.

  3. Marko says

    Unfortunately its not zero emissions, as the electricity to charge the battery has to come fro somewhere as well as the components and construction of the aircraft. Nice to see it happen if it is cheaper aviation.

  4. Andrew the tech nerd says

    Great to see this technology in a plane. However the endurance time may need to be extended to appeal to a wider buyer demographic. Not zero emission but a step in the right direction.

  5. Mark Beierle says

    This is wounderfull news! Hopefully the US FAA is watching this with an eye for allowing this to happen in the US also.
    As for the carbon, in the worst case, using coal power plants, it would only produce 1/2 the carbon as a petrochemical ( gas ), engine in the same airframe.
    Thank you Pepistreal and Electro aero
    For leading the world in the right direction.

  6. Chris says

    A missed opportunity: I would call a plug-in electric airplane from Australia “AC/DC” ( like the band name).

  7. Robert Jans says

    The airplane is barely airborne or the comments about “the electricity generation by dirty plants” or something alike, is already starting. I have over 4 yrs now a 100% electric car … fueled by 9 kW of solar panels on my roof. Aside from that: why is this question never asked about fossil fueled cars? You cannot hold the car-maker or airplane maker responsible for the fuel cleanliness: that’s the job of the electricity makers. Already one country in the world is 100% green (Iceland) and some already up to 50%: Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany at 25%,…. The US is far lagging behind. and under Trump falling farther back.

  8. David Hill says

    I just switched to an all electric car, and am quite pleased. Internal combustion engines are tolerated only because of the energy density of the gas (petrol) used to fuel them. I was very surprised to see an all electric airplane, as the weight of the batteries is significantly more than the weight of avgas of the same total energy. Very well done, and I’d love to be able to fly it here in the US.

  9. Olf Dart says

    This is a great look into the future of aviation! Fare enough, at this stage it may not have the performance of a petrol motor, but that isn’t too far away. With battery technology steadily improving it can only get better! Tomcat Terry obviously isn’t a flyer. thinking poor old WA is the home of Pipistrel Aircraft, be great if it was though!

  10. Russel Green says

    The comment about “why are people complaining about ‘dirty plants making the electricity’ ” is a fair question. The answer is because too many people & adverts are saying “Zero Emission”. When you include the emissions from the production of the electricity, it’s much cleaner than gas/Diesel engines but not zero by any means. Charging the batteries by solar helps this a great deal, but is not yet the norm. And manufacturing the batts in the 1st place is quite dirty. And when the batts have reached end of useful life? Should we talk about what those substances are and what happens to them in the LAND FILL? Very little of the battery will be recycled.
    The comment about short flight time being not useful for the private market is quite true, but that’s why these craft are being marketed to flight schools for now. Nearly always an hour flight that returns to the home field, where they have another charged battery to change out.
    There is a U.S. company making this same scenario– SunFlyer. They use an Arion Lightning airframe and put their electrics in it, sold to flight schools.