Sun Flyer Begins Ground, Taxi Tests

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Developers of the Sun Flyer electric airplane have begun power-on testing with a series of ground, taxi and preflight tests. Aero Electric Aircraft Corp. said this week the FAA also recently granted the prototype its temporary registration, another step in the process toward an airworthiness certificate. "We have been preparing for the power-on tests for months, taking extraordinary precautions to develop comprehensive checklists and safety protocols,” AEAC President Charlie Johnson said. 

The first Sun Flyer, under development to be the first FAA-certified, all-electric airplane for flight training and personal flying, made its public debut in May after the development team completed final assembly at Centennial Airport in Colorado. The two-seat, low-wing airplane features solar cells on the wings, a 400-volt lithium-ion battery pack system and a 100-kilowatt electric motor. In his remarks at the IDTechEx engineering conference Thursday in Santa Clara, California, AEAC CEO George Bye said this kind of technology has the potential to be a common flight training platform in the future. “All this great technology has meaning when you can integrate advanced concepts into a practical configuration with a business solution like Sun Flyer,” he said.

Comments (3)

When a student trains on an electric - will that be a new classification? Will the student then have to get another rating to fly fuel powered?

Posted by: Don Lineback | November 18, 2016 9:09 AM    Report this comment

On the question of whether a new rating should be required for electric, I'd advocate that the FAA's approach should be a) no, unless the evidence suggests there's a need for additional regulation, b) if there is evidence of a need for additional regulation, investigate making "electric" and "piston" be endorsements rather than ratings, c) make it an additional rating only if the endorsement approach is clearly failing AND there is strong evidence that making it a rating would be better.

I could make a case for either no regulation, or an endorsement. A full rating seems excessive. For example, an endorsement is sufficient for a glider pilot to operate a "self-launch glider" (motorglider), and it's sufficient for an airplane pilot to operate a tailwheel airplane. But, no endorsement may be necessary: for example, no endorsement is needed for aerobatic operations.

An electric motor has a single power lever, no mixture control, and no carb heat control, which makes it very different to most piston motors. But, these statements are also true of the widely-used Rotax 912/914 family (or, at least, most installations - some have carb heat controls). On the other hand, monitoring "fuel state" and "engine parameters" is entirely different and requires some (pretty limited) training.

As a separate point, since electric motor controllers already incorporate software, it should be fairly easy to have a mode setting that gives them the throttle response of a turbine (i.e., much slower), making it relatively straightforward for pilots to transition from an electric trainer to a turbine airplane, bypassing piston power altogether. This could be an advantage, because operating larger piston engines requires a fair amount of specialized knowledge that is irrelevant in turbine operations. Trainee pilots might as well go directly to learning about turbines.

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | November 21, 2016 6:53 AM    Report this comment

When the battery on the Sun Flyer runs low, i.e. down to 30% state of charge, how long does it take to charge the battery back to 100% SOC? Another question I have is, when you take off with the battery at full charge, how long can you fly before the battery runs low and you have to land somewhere?

Posted by: Alex Kovnat | November 22, 2016 7:15 AM    Report this comment

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