By using electric and hybrid forms of propulsion, very different-looking aircraft may end up taking to the sky
WHEN Didier Esteyne, an Airbus test pilot, flew a small two-seat electrically powered aircraft called the E-Fan across the English Channel in July, the giant European aerospace group was keen to point out the journey was not a gimmick. Indeed, Airbus is serious enough about electric flight to want to put the E-Fan into production as a pilot-training aircraft. It will go on sale towards the end of 2017 to be followed by a four-seat version.
Airbus is not alone in thinking about making much bigger electric and hybrid aircraft to carry passengers. Just as in cars, electrical propulsion offers a number of advantages over piston and jet engines. Modern, digitally controlled electric motors supply lots of torque, a rotational force which is as good at turning propellers and fan blades as it is wheels. Electric power is also quiet, clean and highly reliable, with fewer engine parts to wear or break.
Read more: Future aircraft: Electrifying flight