Four-Place Electric Airplane Flies
Pipistrel announced the first flight of its oddly configured Taurus four-place electric aircraft that it plans to enter into the $1.65 million Green Flight Challenge. The aircraft flew Friday morning at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, where it had remained after the show while myriad issues relating to its FAA approval were sorted out. The aircraft looks like it came from Burt Rutan's drawing board, with twin fuselages and room for two occupants in each. It was creates specifically for the Green Flight Challenge and is the mating of two Pipistrel G2 aircraft with a central spar that also carries the 145-kw brushless motor, which is supplied with 450 pounds of lithium polymer batteries. The wing span is more than 75 feet. The first flight was apparently uneventful.
The flight came at a the end of a string of bureaucratic and technical challenges that took 30 people three weeks to overcome. Just getting the batteries into the U.S. was an issue since lithium batteries can be a fire hazard. Also, the FAA wouldn't allow anyone but an American to fly the first flight so Pipistrel used the huge amount of publicity it received at AirVenture and landed test pilot Dave Morss to take the first hop. Pipistrel isn't talking much about the performance of the aircraft as it prepares for the Green Flight Challenge against a dozen other aircraft. One nugget that will probably be of interest to the other teams is that the Taurus has a glide ratio of greater than 30:1 at 100 mph.