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Monday, 13 Dec 2010

First flight for E-Flight electric Waiex

The E-Flight proof-of-concept electric-powered Waiex motor glider achieved its first flight on 3 December 2010 at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, WI.

The aircraft, created by American aircraft kit manufacturer Sonex Aircraft, is powered by a 54 kW (72 hp) brushless DC electric motor, managed by a newly-designed controller. Power is from a collection of 14.5kw-hour lithium polymer batteries, giving the aircraft an endurance of one hour at low-speed cruise or 15 minutes of aerobatics.

Piloted by Sonex Founder and E-Flight team leader John Monnett, N270DC made a short hop on runway 27, intended to be a conservative non-pattern flight to break ground-effect and analyse in-flight system performance as the next step in testing.

This short flight punctuates four years of development by the E-Flight design team in engineering, building and testing one of the most advanced electric flight packages ever conceived.

"We are very proud of this achievement. The core design team of Pete Buck, Andrew Pearce, John Monnett, and myself would like to thank our staff, families, business partners, and friends in all of their help and understanding through this incredibly challenging project." Said Jeremy Monnett, CEO and General Manager of Sonex Aircraft. "We have a flight envelope expansion plan and will be working on this in the coming weeks and months. We have also already started our motor v4.0 design and motor controller v12.0 to be integrated on N270DC. Many more great things to come on this project!"

"Every first flight of a new aircraft or powerplant design is an interesting experience," said John Monnett, "but with N270DC more than any other aircraft we've built, I experienced just a glimpse of what the Wright Brothers must have felt like flying an unproven system for the first time. The flight was uneventful, as expected, but it represents a huge emotional victory for our team to check this item off the list."

Data from today's flight will be carefully analysed by the design team and compared to high power ground run data to determine any necessary firmware adjustments before proceeding to full traffic pattern and extended-duration test flights. N270DC is a standard Waiex kit aircraft modified with the installation of proprietary E-Flight electric power components: The E-Flight 54kw brushless DC electric motor, E-Flight electronic motor controller, a 14.5kw-hr lithium polymer battery system, the E-Flight battery management system, and E-Flight cockpit instrumentation and controls.

The E-Flight Initiative electric flight project was first announced to the public at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2007, and many major milestones have been reported in the years to follow. The team has had to overcome many technical obstacles along the way, learning valuable lessons about the technology at each step.

The E-Flight design team's continuing progress can be followed on Sonex Aircraft, LLC's Hornets' Nest Research and Development web site at http://www.sonexaircraft.com/research. An E-Flight mailing list is also available to deliver automated notification of E-Flight progress web postings.

Photo caption: E-Flight Electric Waiex begins the takeoff roll  

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