Its not easy breaking out of pack at AirVenture. However, PC-Aeros Sun Flyer, a solar-electric proof-of-concept airplane, is getting attention-its developers are promising that the two-place version will cut the cost of flight training by over half. Charlie Johnson, president of PC-Aero, said that the single-place version on display at AirVenture is the most recent airplane that the company has flown as part of its development program. It has two electric motors on a single shaft, developing 40 HP-failure of one in flight means only a loss of slightly more than 50 percent power. Motors are expected to last as long as 20,000 hours in service. They are powered by a battery pack that is supplemented by solar panels on the wings and provide 2.5 hours of flight time with a cruising speed of about 80 knots. The solar panels add about 15 percent to the endurance and will fully charge the battery pack if the airplane is parked outside for three days. The two-place, all composite, trainer prototype is expected to fly in the first of half of 2015.
As the Sun Flyer is targeted at flights schools, the battery packs will be designed to be rapidly changed. They can be charged in about six hours. It is expected that a trainer in regular use will need four of the $10,000 to $15,000 battery packs, according to PC-Aero personnel. Johnson said that hourly direct operating costs for electricity and maintenance are expected to be in the $5 to $10 range, a major savings over airplanes that require avgas. The target market is flight schools that are looking for ways to cut costs for pilot clients who are seeking to fly professionally and are facing the new, extraordinarily high hourly requirement to become an airline first officer. PC-Aero personnel said that the Sun Flyer will be certificated as an LSA and is expected to have a stall speed of 37 knots. Johnson said that the price of a new Sun Flyer trainer is targeted to be below $200,000.
Click here for video of our conversation with Johnson at the Sun Flyer exhibit in Oshkosh.