Yuneec, an aviation startup based near Shanghai, has completed a test flight of what they claim will be world’s first commericially available electric airplane.
You can see video of the flight, which took place on June 12, here.
The airplane, dubbed the E430, seats two and is made with lightweight composites. The 230-volt powerplant charges in three hours, and can fly for about 2.5 hours on a single charge. Yuneec says it’ll cost just $89,000. That’s fairly cheap for an aircraft of this sort–for example, the much ballyhooed Icon A5 begins at $139,000, and over 400 have already been pre-ordered.
Production of light-sport aircraft–a designation by the FAA, for planes like the A5 and the E430, which weigh less than 1,320 pound and fly slower than 138mph–has been exploding in recent years. Understanding the fuss takes a bit of background. The FAA created the LSA designation in 2005, and they mandated that LSA pilots have to get an LSA license–which is different from a regular pilot’s license, in that it takes just about 20 hours of flight training. That’s about half as long as a regular pilot’s license. Those easier licensing requirements have many people saying that the recreational-flying market will explode–and some are predicting that flying will eventually become a common commuting option, in light of swelling traffic problems and sprawling cities.
Dozens upon dozens of start-ups are trying to capitalize on the nascent market. In particular, many of the new LSA’s are designed to be almost as simple to fly as a car–the Icon A5 (pictured below) even has car-like cockpit and controls:
Meanwhile, the E430 is currently being shipped to the U.S. for LSA certification. It’s set to debut next month at the Oshkosh aviation fair, which is American recreational flying’s marquee event.
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