All you need to know about world’s first electric airplane which completed its first flight
The future isn’t so far off as it seems — on 27 September, an all-electric plane named Alice successfully completed its first flight in Washington
The plane, a prototype built by Eviation Aircraft, took off at 7:10 am from the Grant County International Airport and flew for eight minutes at an altitude of 3,500 feet.
Alice took two wide turns around the airfield before landing safely.
According to a report by Seattle Times, onlookers on the ground were able to hear the propellers of the aircraft as it flew directly overhead.
Gregory Davis, president and CEO of Eviation said, “Today we embark on the next era of aviation – we have successfully electrified the skies with the unforgettable first flight of Alice.”
Let’s take a closer look at the details of this flying machine.
Features of the plane
As per Seattle Times, the name ‘Alice’ is inspired Lewis Carrol’s book, Alice n Wonderland.
Alice is built to carry up to nine passengers and two pilots.
According to Interesting Engineering, Alice is powered up by a couple of magni650 electric propulsion units from magniX.
Its makers say that Alice is best suited to carry a few passengers across short distances.
Available in three different variants – nine-seater commuter, six-seater executive cabin and eCargo – Alice runs at a maximum speed of 260 knots.
The all-electric aircraft aims to make regional travel more economical and environmentally sustainable for businesses and consumers, they add.
The passenger version of the plane has a capacity of 1,134 kilogrammes, while the eCargo version holds 1,179 kilogrammes.
When compared to lighter jets or high-end turboprops, the all-electric aircraft makes no noise.
It can even be operated from airports that are currently not used by commercial flights over noise concerns or restricted operating hours.
According to a report by News18, two US-based regional airlines called Cape Air and Global Crossings Airlines, have already placed orders for 75- and 50-units Alice aircrafts.
With an aim to enter services by the year 2027, the company expects to be working on developing an FAA-certified aircraft through 2025 before running one or two flight tests.
“People now know what affordable, clean and sustainable aviation looks and sounds like for the first time in a fixed-wing, all-electric aircraft. This ground-breaking milestone will lead innovation in sustainable air travel, and shape both passenger and cargo travel in the future,” said Davis.
‘A beautiful aircraft’
Steve Crane, the pilot who took the test flight, said “Alice flew and handled wonderfully. It’s beautiful. The team did a great job to build a great airplane.”
“It’s a fast airplane, very responsive. I couldn’t be happier,” he added.
During the flight, Crane claimed that he didn’t hear the engines.
He said, “I hear all the other things. Hydraulic pumps. I hear the propellers. But I can’t hear the engines. They’re silent.”
Explaining the aim of test flight, he said, “What we wanted to do is check for pitch authority, the stability of the aircraft and bring it in for a safe landing.”
No invention comes with a bit of a drawback.
Alice was originally supposed to take-off last year.
However, the company faced a number of executive turnovers and a series of weather issues which hindered its testing progress, according to a report by CNN.
Also, Alice is still just a prototype.
Before operating as a fully-functional commercial plane, Eviation has to run it through a rigorous flight test regime, and get the commuter aircraft certified under the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Battery technology is another challenge in making the craft more commercially viable.
According to Seattle Times, the real danger is the battery cell releasing intense heat and gases that spreads to cause damage to other cells – creating a “thermal runaway.”
To address this, Davis said, “We monitor each of the cells individually. We have a sensor that keeps track of the cell voltage. The computer will be able to identify that a cell is behaving improperly. Then it can take that subpack offline. It will tell it to stop.”
Electric aircrafts – the future of aviation
According to a report by Scientific American, the aviation industry accounted for 2.5 per cent of global carbon emissions in 2019.
By 2050, this number is expected to triple.
According to a report by Vox, Norway in 2018 announced that the country wants all domestic flights to go electric by 2040.
Electric airplanes can help the industry reduce its carbon footprint, experts say.
In addition to eliminating direct carbon emissions, electric airplanes could also reduce fuel costs by up to 90 per cent, experts add.
Airbus, Ampaire, MagniX and of course, Eviation are just some of the companies already developing electric aircrafts.
With inputs from agencies
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