Electric Trainers Arrive In California

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Four electric-powered Pipistrel Alpha Electro aircraft have arrived in southern California, ready to be put into service as trainers, but the regulatory structure for that to happen is not yet in place. “We are flying all four aircraft and are currently focused on working to understand how to successfully tailor a flight training program to the aircraft,” Joseph Oldham, technical advisor to theSustainable Aviation Project, toldAVwebthis week. Oldham, director of the San Joaquin Valley Clean Transportation Center, has been working with Pipistrel and some local nonprofits to develop infrastructure for the electric airplanes. “We have deployed a charger at two airports, Fresno Chandler Executive and Reedley Municipal, to support the aircraft operations, and are working on the third location at Mendota Municipal,” Oldham said.

Oldham said he has flown all four of the airplanes, logging 14 flights and a little over 7 hours of flight time. “The aircraft are amazing to fly and have excellent performance,” he said. “There is no traditional runup as with a piston engine aircraft, so time wasted during taxi and at the runup area is significantly reduced.The motor draws no electrical current sitting waiting for traffic to land, and the prop does not move as you sit in silence waiting to take off; this is the most surprising aspect of the aircraft for most pilots first experiencing the aircraft.” So far, he said, all of his flights have been at a cruising speed of about 90 knots, with a conservative flight time of about 40 minutes, covering about 50 NM. AVweb’s Paul Bertorelli flew the Alpha Electro; click here for his video report.