Electric Aircraft – as of May, 2021

There is a lot of buzz about Electric-powered aircraft nowadays, which looks viable in near future.  The primary argument is about reducing/removing carbon (fossil fuels), as it relates to climate change (greenhouse gas).  The following are some topics in recent news:

Elle Lear

Was reading this article about Erin “Elle” Lear (heiress of Learjet – youngest of 12 grandchildren of William P. Lear), who now has an area of focus of raising the percentages of female pilots and supporting development of electric-powered aircraft.  Women make up about 7% of all certificated pilots.  When I was doing flight training in 1993-1995, I think the numbers were the same.  The article referenced Peggy Chabrian of Women in Aviation (WAI), who reports that there is a steady (but slow) increase in female ATPs since 1990.

Elle has also just founded the first female Aviation Academy (scheduled to start around 2024 and based at Van Nuys, CA), which she’s called Birde.  Appears to be collaboration with Bye e-flyer electric airplane.  I remember seeing something about Bye Aerospace in recent past.

The article mentions some key traits needed of pilots – think creatively; act under pressure; adopt a mentality fitting for a role of such great responsibility; communicate and work well as part of a team.  There was mention, after students completing pilot training, of opportunities to build time with Quantum Air and PAX (affiliated air taxi companies).

Greener Skies – PBS (May 2021)

In Judy Woodruff’s segment, the focus is on impending changes in the aviation industry, as a result of the realities of climate change.  We’re now heading to the 3rd revolution (electric), after the 1st (powered flight) and 2nd (jet engine).  The highlighted aircraft was Pipistrel Alpha Electro – which I’ve heard of before when in development.  When he stopped the aircraft during taxi (common, while waiting for takeoff), the propeller also stopped, which is similar to being in a hybrid car at the traffic light – the fuel shuts off, and is in that moment really obvious where this is going.  15% of carbon footprint comes from transportation.  Right now (pound for pound) liquid fuel contains 16 times more energy than the best batteries.  The issue is for the heavy jets – the batteries (for long flights) would be too heavy.

The segment also highlighted Joby Aviation (founded in 2009 by JoeBen Bevirt).  The aircraft is now with FAA for certification, and looks like a drone with the vertical props.  Focus here is on electric air-taxis – pilot and four passengers.  Flies 200mph with a range of 150 miles.  Bevirt’s vision is all about air taxis, which will therefore require another look at how to address more congestion in the air.  Looks like NASA Ames Research Center is investigating the logistics of how to communicate with and manage all these air taxis.  Goal is to bring down the costs of “taxi” service and possibly then replace the actual car.  Definitely seems like the free market is all over this, and things will start popping up in a couple years (or sooner).  I’m seeing an immediate focus on aviation flight training, and also addressing automobile congestion in places like SoCal.



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