Elektra One Has First Flight

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

The brief press release and single photograph from PC-Aero says it all: “ELEKTRA ONE from PC-Aero performed successfully its First Flight for about 30 minutes. Using only 3 kWh of energy. “The internal First Flight was performed by the well known testpilot Jon Karkow.  He did the first check for the flight performance and characteristics of the electric aircraft and briefed the german testpilot Norbert Lorenzen for the next official First Flight.” Although static tests were completed late last year, speculation that Germany’s tough certification laws held up test flights ran through some of the aviation press.   The angle of the photograph makes it difficult to tell whether the center-line landing gear was retracted or not, but the low energy …

Something(s) Amazingly New Under the Sun

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

To share an idea of how packed with information and inspiration an Electric Aircraft Symposium can be, I’m still writing reports on the fourth annual event, even though EAS V is coming up April 29 in Santa Rosa, California.  This is the next-to-last blog entry on last year’s presentations, and as noted in yesterday’s press release for the event, 2011’s will have at least as many presenters and material. Tyler MacCready is the son of Paul MacCready, founder of AeroVironment, Inc. and inspiration for many human-powered, ultralight, and solar-powered aircraft over the last several decades.  This author was in England when Bryan Allen pedaled Gossamer Albatross across the English Channel, a breakthrough in what was considered aerodynamically and structurally possible.  …

CAFE News: Comparing Apples, Bananas, Oranges and Doughnuts

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, GFC, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

One of the problems facing judges in the July Green Flight Challenge the CAFE Foundation is managing for NASA is that of determining fairly who gets the best fuel mileage.  Since “fuel” in this case can be traditional aviation gasoline, bio-diesel, electricity from batteries or solar panels, or some other energy storage medium, wildly different energy densities have to be taken into account. If TSA “freedom feels” seem intrusive, the scrutiny applied to GFC entrants and their craft will be even more onerous.  Aircraft will be impounded once inspected and registered, and the only contact pilots may have with their planes before taking off will be to “top off” their fuel tanks or batteries just before the start of their …

Drs. Seeley and Moore Hit One Out of the Airpark

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 1 Comment

The January 2011 issue of Popular Mechanics resurrects the perennial hope for a flying automobile.  The cover taunts, “(Go Ahead, Laugh) But NASA, DARPA & the FAA Are Serious.”  Sharon Weinberger taunts some makers a bit in her article, “Driving on Air,” as she looks at a variety of Transformer-style vehicles that can travel by land or air with the fewest inconveniences.  She notes the differences between propelling cars and planes, and looks at extremely different modes of giving people personal aerial transport, including the Moeller Skycar (“Inventor Paul Moeller has been developing the concept for nearly 50 years.  To date, the M400X has only hovered on a tether.”), the Martin Jetpack, The Cartercopter, and the Terrafugia Transition that’s been …

Getting Rid of that Annoying Noise

Dean Sigler Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Despite our adoption of electric powerplants, at least at an experimental phase, one remnant of previous technologies remains.  And it threatens aviation’s future more than possibly any other aspect of flight. Charlotte Whitfield, head of the Aeroacoustics Branch at NASA Langley Research Center, quietly but effectively discussed a problem that plagues not only aircraft designers, but also the people who live near aircraft – noise.  Speaking at EAS IV, she touched on the concern that reducing aircraft noise is an increasingly important aspect of aviation, with urban zones encroaching on formerly remote airfields and a growing population likely to grow irate at having their golf game or quiet time disturbed by an unwanted aeronautical din. As she showed in her …

Putting The Human in Human Factors

Dean Sigler GFC 0 Comments

Part of the Green Flight Challenge is the provision of adequate human factors design in the cockpit of the projected airplane. One can only design in so much ergonomic and safety-minded concern for the pilot and passengers. The ultimate human factor is indeed human, a topic Dr. Key Dismukes handled quite ably at the fourth annual Electric Aircraft Symposium. As noted in his NASA resume, “Dr. Dismukes is Chief Scientist for Human Factors in the Human Factors Research & Technology Division at NASA Ames Research Center (CV ). His current research addresses cognitive issues involved in the skilled performance of pilots, their ability to manage challenging situations, and their vulnerability to error. Among the topics investigated by his research group …

Bagging Algae – Pollutants into Energy

Dean Sigler Sustainable Aviation 1 Comment

For the Fourth Annual Electric Aircraft Symposium on April 23 and 24 in Rohnert Park, California, Dr. Jonathan Trent was an ideal kickoff speaker. His work with NASA Ames Research Center on converting pollutants into algae-based biofuels could have long-term effects on cleaning up our planet’s air and water, and provide byproducts that will help to feed the 900,000,000 who go hungry every day.  As he notes, “Unless we go electric, we must move to low-carbon fuels.” The problem is not a new one.  As musical satirist Tom Lehrer wrote in his 1960’s plea for emissions control, “Pollution, Pollution,” “The breakfast garbage that you throw in to the bay/They drink as lunch in San José.” Dr. Trent, a PhD. in Marine …

The Poop on the Puffin

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants 0 Comments

Under normal circumstances, this editor would never resort to scatological titles, but Mark Moore, the NASA aerospace engineer behind this fantastic flying creation calls his electric craft, “Puffin” because, according to Moore, the bird after which it is named, “Hides its poop, and we’re environmentally friendly because we essentially have no emissions.” Like the Puffin, this craft looks a bit chubby and incapable of flight on the ground, but folds its legs on liftoff, and becomes a streamlined bullet. Moore, who spoke at last year’s Third Annual Electric Aircraft Symposium, and will return for this year’s CAFE Foundation gathering at NASA Ames Research Center in April, unveiled this concept at this year’s American Helicopter Society meeting in San Francisco. Moore …