Bills Would Accelerate Electric Airliner Research


Bills have been introduced in the House and Senate that would authorize $850 million for NASA over the next five years to promote development of technologies to reduce noise and emissions from airliners. The Cleaner, Quieter Airplanes Act would fund “ongoing work to develop and demonstrate new technologies, including systems architecture, components, or integration of systems and airframe structures” with the goal of cutting both noise and greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 for regional aircraft and 2040 for aircraft seating more than 125 people. The Senate bill was introduced Dec. 19 by Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland and in the House by Rep. Tom Beyer, D-Va., after that.

Although the mandate sounds broad, it’s really a push toward electric technology for larger airframes but it will start with smaller platforms. The bill tells the FAA to get going on setting certification standards for the new technologies and to learn from “the certification and operation of small aircraft using electric propulsion in order to inform subsequent standards for larger aircraft.” The bills want results, including test flights of a new design for an electric regional, by 2025. The bill has been sent to committees for analysis and has to get through them to be considered by both chambers, which is considered a long shot.

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  1. $850 M I L L I O N dollars with zero accountability for actual results?
    We all know how it will end after they spend almost a billion dollars, they will say “we are waiting for better battery technology.”

    • I’m forming a new development Corporation now and am looking for venture capitalists here to pitch in. It’ll be a great way to fund your new Vision Jet, Yars … ‘we’ can say we’re gonna turn it into an electric jet and are in the test phase. They’ll believe anything. We can share it. Anyone else up for it ??

      The Congress MANDATES it therefore … it IS !! What BS. (Sum Es Est Sumus Estis Sunt for you Latin types).

    • The more I think about this, William, the madder I’m getting. Those two “rocket scientist” politicians ARE spending our money and for what ? They’re acting like drunken sailors (sorry Navy) on their first shore leave in six months. I’m going to sit down and calculate how much electrical energy would have to be stored aboard an airliner in order for 125 seat machine to fly for an hour. HINT: A LOT !

      And while we’re at it … where’s the report on that full electric beaver that’s gonna save the Universe?

      I advise everyone here to write their Congress people and tell them NOT to support this preposterous idea. If airlines want electric airliners … let THEM pay for the R&D and certification and production.

  2. This is not about science, the environment or the safety of aviation. It’s about appropriating money and politics. And neither of those benefits the people who foot the bill. Us.

    Also, the limits of energy density in batteries is dictated by the periodic table and the elements that the good Lord blessed us with. There is no magic combination of elements that will match the 180,000 pounds of thrust of a 757 for a nonstop transcontinental flight.

    Also electric motors are limited to props and fans. I don’t believe they can sustain flight in the high 30,000′ bracket at 550 KTAS like a turbojet/fan can either no matter how much juice is provided. A fool’s errand.

    • For 27 years, I lived on or around Edwards AFB and for 17 years I had a hangar at Mojave. I seem to remember a GE test airplane with some sort of aft facing prop or perhaps ducted prop … can’t remember. It was gonna be the cat’s meow for energy efficiency … until they discovered problems with the idea.

      As you say, I have no problem with private entities that are willing to put their finances where their ideas are to do research. But as soon as the politicians get into the act … you can BET that one of their Son’s or brothers are gonna profit quietly from it all.

  3. “‘The bills want results, including test flights of a new design for an electric regional, by 2025.’ The bill has been sent to committees for analysis and has to get through them to be considered by both chambers, which is considered a long shot.”

    Another bill introduced to “stick a finger in the air” measuring the winds of free political publicity, find out how much media response they get, and see who pushes back. It is absolutely ludicrous to make a statement “they want results including test flights of a new design for an electric regional by 2025”.

    Why then, demand for only a regional? As long as their bill is DEMANDING results, why not demand an electrical powered 700,000 pound 747 freighter too? It seems so easy to do. Just come up with a bill and demand anything you want. Tax money spent to pay these two politicians, money spent for committee analysis, money spent in House and Senate debate, and then $850 million spent if they reach an agreement. Unbelievable!

    Yeah, the bill passage is a long shot. However, by introducing a bill demanding ridiculous results, it sets a precedence for future bills and future demands. Looks like all I have to do to get my tax money back is pick out an airplane, claim I am going to use electric motor(s) to power it, provide some artist rendering for visuals, make a virtual reality YouTube video of said design, claim “green” transportation for the masses, and get a check.

    Mooney doesn’t need the Chinese. All Mooney needs to do is show a 125 passenger Ovation or Acclaim powered with an electric motor(s), promise it will fly before 2025, and voila! $850 million. $850 million of American tax money brings back US ownership via these two politicians. Welcome to modern legislation.

    • Darn, Jim … you stole my idea for saving Mooney. And speaking of artist renderings … have you now seen the new Avweb article on the Hyundai / Uber Air Taxi. They’re claiming they’ll be able to recharge the thing in five to seven minutes for a 180 mile range. Maybe they got the idea from these politicians ??? I see Diane Feinstein is a co-signer. THAT explains everything. They can’t clean the streets of San Francisco from human waste but … hey … they’ll be able to get from Fisherman’s Wharf to SFO in a helluva quiet hurry for … ~$1K.

      I KNEW there’d be negative ramifications from allowing legal weed in Colorado.

  4. Here’s my question. The Department of Energy maintains 17 different experimental labs around the country charged with research on everything from nuclear power to battery technology. So, why is Congress asking the FAA, who knows nothing about batteries, high powered motors or energy management systems, to cobble together some pie in the sky airplane? Maybe because DOE has already figuured out it won’t work, but Congress thinks they are smarter than the people who know better. Or, maybe they just enjoy wasting the public’s hard-earned money.

    • I have a DOE chart that shows there is no better way to store energy than in chemical format. The chart is eye opening … wish I could attach it here. But we — here — already know that.

      The FAA can’t even figure out a way to help manufacturers certificate high efficiency computer controlled aircraft piston engines (like the cars we drive) and these “rocket scientists” think they can mandate the same Agency to do a “Cleaner, Quieter Airplane” and it’ll pop out in five years. Yeah … right. And isn’t the FAA the same Agency who was complicit in the Boeing MCAS debacle and now can’t figure a way to get all those airplanes fixed up and flying again and earning revenue?

      S.2837 says, “A healthy, thriving aviation sector contributes to the quality of life and economic well-being of the United States. In 2014, aviation accounted for 5.1 percent of the United States gross domestic product and supported 10,600,000 jobs.” If they’re not careful … they’ll wind up killing that, too.