Pipistrel's Coming 200-Kt Four-Seat Hybrid?

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Pipistrel's "revolutionary four-seat aircraft project" may be an all-composite 200-KTAS low-wing with a 200-hp hybrid powerplant slated for debut before 2012. Lexus Magazine sent a writer to Slovenia to visit Pipistrel and wrote of Pipistrel, "Plans are well under way to create a four-seat hybrid aircraft by the end of 2011." A separate publication states, "The company is currently designing its first four-seater aircraft that will travel at 400 km/hour (248 mph)." Of that aircraft Tine Tomazic, in research and development for Pipistrel, has said (PDF), "Whereas all the airplanes that can achieve this speed require at least a 300 horsepower engine, our calculations show that we can do this with a much smaller 200-hp engine." It's possible the hybrid and 200-KTAS aircraft describe two separate applications, but only one four-seater design has been discussed by Pipistrel. And it appears to have a debut date intended to meet up with a 2011 NASA challenge. Pipistrel said in May of 2009 it "will be introducing many new technologies never before used in aviation" at the event. Of the technologies embraced by the design, the hybrid concept has been seen before (Flight Designs unveiled an electric hybrid Rotax 914 at Oshkosh last year). But many key elements of Pipistrel's program will likely be bred from its adoption of an advanced software program from Dassault Systems.

Pipistrel says it is making use of mechanized aerodynamics and production design that begins with Dassault Systems' CATIA 3-D modeling software. The company is using the software to leverage "dramatic improvement with respect to weight, noise and fuel consumption." CATIA, according to Pipistrel, makes the mechanized production of complex shapes simple and decreases production cycle times by more than 25 percent. "Instead of people producing shapes," says Tomazic, "machines are producing much more precise shapes and there are no more mistakes with testing." Pipistrel began development of the four-seater in 2009, when it invested the almost 1 million euro it made that year in profit into the project. It will embrace the company's main philosophies, best summed up by engineering for maximum possible use of energy efficiency, minimum possible air resistance, and largest possible safe payload, combined with the least amount of noise, pollutants and environmental contamination. Current currency exchange rates have reduced the cost of Pipistrel's currently available aircraft for American buyers, bringing savings of roughly $12,000 from 2009 to 2010 and setting the Pipistrel Sinus (a cousin to the award-winning Virus) below $100,000.