Electra EL-2 Goldfinch First Flight

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Electra.aero plans on lofting nine people into the sky in a little regional airliner.  As a first step, the firm just flew its EL-2 Goldfinch demonstrator from the Manassas, Virginia Regional Airport (KHEF).  As Flying magazine pointed out, the bright yellow aircraft, “pays homage to its namesake’s golden hue.”

Test pilot Cody Allee stands next to Electra.aero EL-2 Goldfinch

Although it’s designed as a “blown lift” aircraft, levitating on deflected airflow under its large flaps, the EL-2 made its first takeoffs as a conventional airplane, scooting along the runway until it reached flying speed.  Its November 11 takeoff was apparently on battery power only, with its November 19 second trip assisted by a (possibly Safran) turbogenerator.  Electra claims it to be the “world’s first blown lift aircraft using distributed electric propulsion and a hybrid-electric propulsion system.”  The eight motors appear to be Safran 45- or 50-kilowatt (60- or 67-horsepower) models.  Both flights were piloted by Cody Allee, chief technology officer of ABSI Aerospace & Defense and a former U.S. Marine Corps pilot, at KHEF.

High above the Virginia countryside, Goldfinch brightens a blue sky

In the 23-minute first flight, the Goldfinch covered 30 miles and rose to 3,200 feet.

In its full demonstration mode, the plane’s large flaps and ailerons will direct airflow “downward to ‘multiply’ lift, allowing the eSTOL (electric Short Take Off and Landing) [airplane] to take off and land at ‘neighborhood driving speeds’” according to Electra.aero.  One writer called it an heSTOL, indicating a hybrid electric STOL and adding to the growing mass of acronyms threatening to engulf the world.

John Langford Explains it All

In this video, John Langford, founder and CEO of Electra.aero explains what he sees as significant differences between his company’s blown lift approach and rotary wing and multi-rotor configurations.

Langford notes the lack of a hover or transition flight phase in the Goldfinch demonstrator, and eventually in Electra’s nine-passenger model.  This simplified operation will enable a flight path even in “full-blown” mode that can be controlled by a pilot with conventional light aircraft controls.  Certification and pilot training will also be simplified.

J. P. Stewart, vice president and general manager of Electra, reflects on the recent accomplishment. “We’re looking forward to further expanding the envelope of this aircraft and demonstrating the full capability of Electra’s technology.”

With orders for 1,700 aircraft from 30 operators, and agreements with AFWERX, there is a definite interest in this regional craft.  Langford adds, “The aim of Electra is to fill a gap in air travel between 50 and 500 miles, where most trips today are made by automobile. The key to saving time is to operate close in, which means getting in and out of small spaces quietly and safely, while still being fast enough to cover long distances.  Electra will be able to take you from downtown Manhattan not only to Kennedy Airport, but to Washington, DC. It will bring air service to thousands of communities where air travel today is not a practical or affordable option. It also opens vast new opportunities for middle-mile cargo logistics.'”

Late Breaking Addition.  Video of the First Flight!

Goldfinch seems to literally “hop” from the runway.  We can hardly wait to see what happens when Cody Allee deploys full flaps.

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