It is more than 100 years since Louis Bleriot made the first cross Channel flight from Calais to Dover ushering in a new era of aviation. But next week Airbus will take the next giant leap in air travel when the company embarks on the longest-ever manned electric flight.
Reversing Bleriots 1909 route, French designer and pilot Didier Esteyne will take off from Lydd Airfield on Friday morning in the Airbus E-Fan two-seater aircraft for a 38 minute journey into the history books. So far, manned electric planes have only made short test-flights at air-shows or loops of airfields, but the E-Fan aims to be the first to cross the sea to another country, travelling 22 miles from England to France.
If successful, the feat could herald a new era of electric aviation where passengers need no longer worry about their carbon footprint and those under flight paths can live in relative quiet. Airbus is already planning a 90-seat regional airliner that can fly with all-electric or hybrid propulsion by 2050.
Mr Esteyne, Airbus test pilot and designer of the E-Fan: I am immensely excited to be piloting the E-Fan on this historic flight. Like so many others in aviation industry Louis Blriot has been a hero and inspiration to me and it gives me great pride that I am able to honour his legacy with the first ever electric powered Channel crossing. The E-Fan project shows the role that electric flight can play in the future of aerospace and the Channel crossing is an important demonstration of its capabilities and a milestone in the projects development.
The E-Fan is so light that it costs just 10 an hour to run compared with 35 for a similar sized piston-engine petrol-powered plane. It is made completely of carbon fibre and can cruise at nearly 100mph for up to an hour before changing batteries. And if it gets into trouble it can deploy its own parachute and float gently down to the ground. Standing just under two metres in height, the plane has a 36ft wingspan and is 18.6ft from nose to tail.
It is powered by two 32kw electric motors which drive a pair of fans attached to the carbon body, so that the plane can get quickly and quietly off the ground. Separate batteries power the ventilation and cooling systems. The batteries take just 90 minutes to full recharge meaning the plane could get back in the air quickly.
Source: The Telegraph
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