EDITOR’S NOTE: Don Lee is taking a break from his column this week. The following is an article that was originally published on May 14, 2017:
In addition to the Solar Impulse, other solar planes are in the news.
The Aero Electric Aircraft Company Sun Flyer, which the inventors envision as a trainer for student pilots, would be able to stay aloft for three hours.
They of course have high hopes. They hope to fly a prototype before the end of the year. The company says the cost of fuel will be $ 1 per hour.
With aviation gas at $ 5.60 per gallon, and assuming a Cessna 172 consumes eight gallons per hour, the fuel cost for the training Cessna would be $ 44.80 per hour. They hope to achieve this high efficiency by using lithium batteries and adding power from solar cells mounted on the top of the wings.
These solar cells will fully charge the batteries if they are parked outside for a few days. The claim is that these cells will provide 15 percent of the power in flight. Another claim is to recover the power of the propeller during the descent.
The electric motor will become a generator during the descent. They plan to recover an additional 15 percent. The electric motor / generator driving the propeller is the size of a stack of pancakes.
The projected price of the Sun Flyer is $ 200,000. The company anticipates a shortage of pilots since the Air Force does not come out as much as in the past. I also read that the F-35 fighter plane will be the last fighter piloted.
With the advent of advanced drones, the disappearance of the hunter seems likely. Drones can be designed to withstand G forces that would incapacitate a human pilot. Humans would not be a risk either.
Until I visited the Experiment Aircraft Association convention in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, I didn’t know there were so many solar-powered planes flying. After further exploring the internet, I found a whole host of solar airplanes flying.
I will cite a few others that seem viable.
The SunSeeker II flew over the Alps and circled the European continent in 2009. It is a single seater aircraft but they have a two seater aircraft named Sunseeker Duo, which is the first two seater solar aircraft. He has been flying since 2013 and has logged thousands of flight hours. It has a wingspan of 75 feet but the wings fold up for storage. He weighs just over 1000 pounds.
I will mention one more, the MC-15 Cri-Cri Cristaline electric aircraft. It is an unusual aircraft, even for an electric powered aircraft.
It is a single seater twin and won the speed record for an electric powered aircraft at 163 miles per hour on September 5, 2010. This one does not have solar cells for it. increase.
It broke its old record at the Paris Air Show on June 25, 2011, with a speed of 175.5 miles per hour.
The Cri-Cri’s flight time is only 25 minutes, which is really not very convenient.
I think that with all the money spent on electric planes, the result will surely be a practical solar-assisted general aviation aircraft in the next few years.
Don Lee, a pilot out of Lawrence County Airport since 1970, has been responsible for equipment and grounds maintenance for several years. He can be contacted at [email protected]