Chip Yates Presses On In Quest To Cross Atlantic On Electric


AVweb introduced readers to Chip Yates in April, and his quest to retrace the steps of Charles Lindbergh, flying more than 3,500-miles across the Atlantic — but in an electric aircraft — is making progress, but is hampered by funding. The engineer’s project currently exists as plans calculations and projections. Among them, Yates proposes to build an electrically-powered twin motor aircraft that otherwise has the physical appearance of a sailplane in canard configuration. Yates calculates his 100-foot wingspan airplane will have a sailplane-respectable lift to drag ratio of 35:1 and the ability to carry 26,000 pounds of its own airframe and batteries. As we told you in April, his design is not solar powered and he would undertake the 3,500-plus mile oversea route with the clear understanding that his battery pack only has capacity for 700 miles. Yates’ solution to that mathematically impossible range dilemma is that he would not be flying “alone.” If successful, this project would not be Yates’ first “first.”

Yates’ project would use unmanned aerial drones to carry battery packs to his aircraft. He plans to depart from New York with one attached. The two aircraft would fly as one until the batteries were near empty. At that point, the main aircraft would jettison the battery pack drone which would fly off for a landing at a suitable airfield under what remains of its own power. The main aircraft would continue on and perform what might visually appear to be the electrical equivalent of aerial refueling. Another drone would attach via tether to the main aircraft and supply power for flight. The aircraft’s own batteries will be used to span a section of the mid-Atlantic furthest from land. Each drone would detach with enough energy to fly back to a powered landing at an appropriate airfield. Yates expects to use five and power along at a speed close to Lindbergh’s (roughly 100 mph). He is currently testing electric batteries, a 440-volt 80 amp-hour lithium ion set, in a Long-EZ. The 42-year-old earned his pilot certificate last year and if his flying history is short, his electrical engineering credentials lay out a much longer list culminating in a 2011 world record. Aside from the Long-EZ he converted to electric flight, Yates, with his own money, built an electric motorcycle that was competitive with and beat track-raced bikes in competition. At the Bonneville salt flats in 2011, Yates set a world record for electric motorcycles at 197 mph. Yates hopes to bring a sample of his progress to EAA AirVenture, 2013.

AVweb‘s Mary Grady interviewed Chip Yates in April; find that podcast here.