experimental electric powered aircraft are on display this week: the
"Electraflyer-C" (AeroShell Square) and the Sonex electric
airplane (EAA Welcome Center), and interest in the airplanes has
been extremely high, according to their builders.
group of industry experts met with EAA and FAA officials late Friday
to begin identifying what design standards would be needed for an
electric light-sport aircraft (LSA), and to gauge the enthusiasm of
the industry and pilots for bringing an electric LSA to market.
current FAA regulations allow only reciprocating engines in the LSA
category. That rule was written to prevent the use of turbine or jet
engines in LSAs. EAA has asked the FAA to permit the use of electric
engines in light-sport aircraft and ultralights, through two
exemptions to the rule. One would change the definition of LSA to
include electric propulsion. The other would change the way an
ultralight’s maximum empty weight is calculated. Currently an
ultralight’s empty weight does not include the allowed five
gallons of fuel, but would include the weight of batteries to power
an electric motor.
proposal would change the way empty weight is calculated for an
electric powered ultralight.
FAA official at the LSA electric propulsion meeting on Friday said
the FAA is receptive to the idea of electric propulsion for LSAs,
but the agency wants to see a design standard written for electric
LSAs before it will issue the exemption. LSA uses ASTM consensus
should figure out what is the minimum that can be done [to write a
new standard] that would allow an electric flyer to fly as an LSA,"
said Earl Lawrence, EAA vice president for government and industry
Monnett of Sonex Aircraft agreed: "Different manufacturers and
systems will approach [the problems of electric flight] in different
ways, but you don’t want to write the standard to a given
system." The technology is advancing rapidly, he added, and the
standard should give each manufacturer the flexibility to innovate.
noted that writing new standards for electric flight will require a
lot of effort, and asked the group, "Are we sure this standard
would get used?"
is an electric aircraft out on the field that could be brought to
market tomorrow," Monnett said. "The standard will get
lot of pilots have tried to give us money for a deposit on an
electric Sonex," he said.
want to buy an electric airplane." Sonex is not accepting
deposits or orders for its electric flyer, he added, but as soon as
the FAA clears the way for an electric LSA, manufacturers will build
begin," said Lawrence "we need to determine what standards
are already out there for electric motors, motor controls,
batteries, and other components; and we need to review the existing
LSA standards, to identify what items need to be addressed."
of the group agreed to begin reviewing the LSA standards and
developing a list of items requiring new standards. They agreed to
reconvene in October to finalize that list. Among the many items a
new standard will have to address are:
motors and motor controls
of useful load—since there is no fuel burn off with batteries
gauges—measuring the remaining useful charge in the batteries
charging voltage, charging plugs, and receptacles.
questions to address include:
will a motor and batteries affect the crashworthiness of an LSA?
will first responders and rescuers need to know about electric
will an electric propulsion system respond to a water ditching?
will airports accommodate airplanes wanting to plug in and
The group agreed on a
goal of preparing a draft standard by AirVenture 2009. Members
expressed the hope that an electric LSA could be brought to market
in two years. Both the FAA and designers want new design standards
in place before an electric LSA goes on sale.