To say that electric airplanes are a hot item now is to give understatement a bad name. New ones appear almost weekly. In this interview video, AVweb talks to Miles O’Brien, who recently completed and aired an hourlong NOVA film on electric airplanes for PBS. O’Brien and AVweb’s Paul Bertorelli discuss why it’s so difficult to cover this emerging industry.


  1. Remember “Eclipse Aviation” and “Day Jet”? The FAA re-wrote the entire book for all the masses of small jets zooming around the airspace………where are they?

    Same for electric “Air Taxi” .

    • I did some reading, and Day Jet looks like it was a real operation, though there were suspicions regarding the early timing of their announcement of a large Eclipse order.

      Microsoft bigshots (Vern Raburn and Bill Gates) were behind Eclipse, hence the regulatory capture.

      There were a lot of issues with Eclipse, but the highlights were a change from Williams jets to P&W, and general lack of mfg. experience in the industry. Some people did make money off Eclipse by re-selling delivery positions before Eclipse started circling the drain.

      • It’s a stretch to say DayJet was a real operation. It was in the proof-of-concept phase when it simply ran out of money to fund enough airplanes to make the network that Ed Iacobucci, the founder, said was needed to meet critical mass.

        He basically had a data-driven Uber-type ride hailing model. He insisted he knew it would work because the data said it would. It didn’t. Worth noting is that Uber isn’t profitable after 11 years, although it insists it will be this year.

        Also worth nothing is that Uber bailed on Elevate because even it knew the economics were challenging. That’s not to say it’s impossible. But it’s a steep hill to climb.

  2. Remember the BD5? If you can get people whipped into an emotionally frenzy then they will send you millions of dollars. You are selling the dream; you don’t want to sully the dream with the details…

    • I was still in school, and not tuned into the BD5 controversy. My take is that Bede wasn’t a crook, just not a competent business man.

      What I’ve never figured out is why the original plan for composite panels attached to a metal frame never really became popular. Or if it did, I’m unaware.

      Seems to me Sonex has proven the overall concept was not crazy. What’s crazy to me is how it seems builder assist doesn’t seem to work since companies seem to either not want to do it, or they quit doing it. Similar with kit cars, although there was an independent in central Texas that did that for a long while and may still do it.

    • I had a deposit on a BD5. The deposit was returned in a quite timely manner when Bede decided not to produce the kit. It was a long time ago, and in a different galaxy, but as I recall it was little more than I year after I placed the deposit; and I was one of the first to order.

  3. Excellent video that covers the challenges of accurately covering the electrification of aviation.

    Jim Bede produced flying airplanes. He shared details of his revolutionary designs and evolution of the aircraft as he progressed with any body who would listen. By the time he was selling BD-5 kits, a flying airplane not only existed but was available to the press for evaluation. A lot has been said about his business acumen. But one cannot dismiss the loss of promised production engine that caused all sorts of problems contributing in part to the eventual financial fiasco. But there are BD-5’s still being built today proving a well designed airplane with a mature powerplant still has a market.

    Most of the naysayers are not naysayers because they intrinsically hate electrical propulsion. It’s decades of more not less outrageous claims showing a trend toward less marketing savvy rather than a mature understanding of aviation, FAA certification processes, and the mindset of the average aviation consumer.

    Aviation is littered with past, and now present outlandish promises. However, few of these electric visions seem to have any knowledge of past aviation history. Use of Other People’s Money (OPM) is the modus operandi rather than producing a usable, certifiable, transportation solution. There is no end product. Instead, its a short term window of OPM use resulting in another black eye to any hope of a usable flying aerial conveyance. I understand proprietary info and taking care in guarding that. But that seems to be a cover for using OPM without restriction or accountability. And because most people, especially investment people have no idea what participating in aviation really entails, any oversized dronelike multirotor flying unicorn attracts enough OPM to foster more ridiculous performance and certification claims.

    Since just about everything seems to involve politics demanding political correctness to get any media attention, those investors like Boeing, Airbus, and Lockheed-Martin know that a few million in investments of some of these vTOLS is cheap advertising to continue to massage the masses of their collective “concern” for the environment while they continue to build and sell their kerosene burners. Green is proper PC.

    It used to be sell the sizzle not the steak. But at least there was a steak to eventually sell via the sizzle. Today we have CGI sizzle with virtual eye-candy that leads to an empty frying pan. No steak but access and use of OPM with the promise of future smells. Yeah, the check is in the mail, and I love you. Good luck in covering that without misgivings, confusion, and negative comments from an equally or more frustrated aviation consumer who is looking for a legitimate outcome. Not an easy trail to walk on.

    I think AvWeb has done a great job in walking that tight-rope. Paul, you have fearlessly, with a lot of thought, done a great job thus far. Follow your instincts. They have served you well so far. Your candor on addressing this growing problem is refreshing resulting in my support and viewership of AvWeb. Please don’t stop. We need some sort of aviation media platform that can take the sometimes withering comments, yet continue to slog through the reporting of the electrification of passenger carrying unicorns. You continue to report. We will make our own assessments.

  4. I guess they have this sorted out, but I would like a clear and simple explanation as to how a battery handles an “empty” condition. A gas engine makes full power until the tank is empty; batteries as I have known them deplete gradually so how much charge is really left when the engine sputters to a stop?