Some excerpts from the AOPA coverage of AERO, the big European aviation event:
Magnus Aircraft eFusion: This is a joint effort between Hungarian airframer Magnus Aircraft Corp. and Germany’s industrial giant Siemens, which provides its SSP-55D, 75-horsepower electric motor. The eFusion’s lithium-ion battery can power the airplane for 40 minutes of flight and needs an hour to fully recharge. This experimental, 110-knot two-seat design—which made its first public flight at AERO—is but one offering on display.
ΦNIX: This Czech-built motorglider uses a 60-kilowatt/80-hp electric motor for self-launches as well as other phases of flight, and under power can cruise at 108 knots and fly as long as 2.5 hours on a single charge of its lithium-ion battery. Maximum glide ratio is 1:32. It can be ordered with wingspans of 11 or 15 meters.
Antares E2: This is not a true general aviation airplane, but its features are noteworthy. Built by Germany’s Lange Research GmbH, this six-motor design has a 75-foot wingspan, can cruise at 135 knots, and has a 40-hour endurance. Intended for use in surveillance roles, the E2 uses six methanol-powered fuel cells and dual batteries in a hybrid propulsion setup that generates enough power to provide ice protection of leading edges and enough energy to drive radars and other high-end surveillance gear. It has a 3,638-lb max takeoff weight, can hold 660 pounds of methanol in two underwing pods, and carry a payload of 440 pounds.
(The last one would be an awesome replacement for the Predator; see “The Predator drone is not an ambi-turner” for how the lack of anti-icing was one reason that the U.S. military abandoned the machine.)
Of course the least exciting news is always about aircraft that are real and flying:
Pipistrel Alpha Electro: This two-seat trainer is powered by a 60 kW/80-hp electric motor and can fly for an hour on a single charge of its lithium ion battery. Six airplanes have recently been exported to the United States. Four of these will serve as trainers under the CALSTART program for disadvantaged and unemployed youth at the Mendota and Reedley, California airports, and the other two are owned by Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum in Los Angeles. … these Alpha Electros have been signed off to legally fly, even though the FAA’s light sport airplane (LSA) rules don’t quite yet endorse electrically powered flight. “Procedural changes to LSA rules allowing electrically powered aircraft have already been made internally by the FAA,” Coates said. “And now the new rules are on the way to being published.” Coates says 50 percent of the cost of the CALSTART airplanes is being funded by pollution penalties paid to the California government by Volkswagen. The terms of a Volkswagen illegal-emissions settlement require that more than $1 billion be invested in a California “green fund” to benefit environmentally friendly projects. Price of the Alpha Electro is $118,000, which includes a charger. Six more are on the way to California customers.
The students flying these world’s-most-advanced training aircraft are currently “unemployed.” In other words, they are young Americans who can’t get organized, in one of the tightest labor markets in U.S. history, to walk down to McDonald’s at 3 pm and start an evening shift. The California officials, however, have decided to train them for a job that requires getting up at 4:30 am.
Another interesting bit of news is that Piper will be making a diesel-powered version of its venerable Seminole twin trainer. These will be powered by an engine design that started life as a Mercedes car engine and was adapted for aviation by Thielert, which was bought out of bankruptcy by Continental. It is an obviously great idea that has never made any money. Keep this in mind (and your checkbook closed) if you ever hear an aviation business idea pitch!