The airplane in question, which is called the Alpha Electro from Pipistrel, made local aviation history when it debuted at the Fresno airport, as it's the first all-production electric aircraft to ever fly in the county. It was deployed as part of the so-called Sustainable Aviation Project, which is a collaborative effort between the cities of Mendota and Reedley and CALSTART San Joaquin Valley.
Pipistrel's Alpha Electro is described simply as a zero-emissions aircraft, which means it doesn't produce any harmful or destructive byproducts as part of its operation. It is expected to offer low-cost flight training options for youth in the area, said the organizers behind its historic debut. Meanwhile, Reedley City manager Nicole Zieba remarked that it's the first all-electric aircraft to receive certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
According to Joseph Oldham, the director of the San Joaquin Valley Clean Transport program, the reason why the Alpha Electro exists is due to recent advancements in battery storage technology. "Battery technology just has not gotten to a point until recently," he said, "where electric propulsion was practical."
He noted that the two-seater planes were capable of flying for one hour for every full charge of the battery, and that they cost $135,000 each. "These are production electric airplanes," he added. "These are factory-built, factory-warranted and supported." (Related: Battery-powered commercial jetliners could eliminate jet fuel entirely, making air travel vastly less expensive.)
On Pipistrel's official website, the company listed some of Alpha Electro's specs and key features. It is said to have a short take-off distance and a powerful 1000+ feet per minute (FPM) climb. It has also been optimized for so-called traffic-pattern operations, where about 13 percent of energy gets recuperated on every approach, leading to increased endurance on the battery while also enabling short-field landings.
According to Ivo Boscarol, the general manager of Pipistrel, it's the perfect time for an aircraft such as the Alpha Electro to exist, mainly due to the demands of modern-day aviation. "With the ever-growing cost of fuel it is time to rethink pilot training," he explained. "Our solution is the first practical all-electric trainer!" The use of the Alpha Electro, he said, can cut the cost of "ab-initio pilot training" by up to 70 percent, which makes flying a lot more affordable for those who want to partake in it.
The Alpha Electro is quiet, energy-efficient, and also small enough to fit inside a home garage. It can be used to maximize space in airports or landing zones, and with its other benefits including cost savings, it's hard to imagine a future where it isn't somehow involved in people's lives. Its benefits to the environment due to its status as a zero-emissions type of vehicle also cannot be discounted. Expect more of its kind of vehicle to become available in the coming years.
To learn more about what's in store for electric airplanes and other vehicles in general in the future, visit Power.news.