Lindbergh and Embry-Riddle Team up on Electric Flight

April 28th, 2014 by Amy Laboda

That is, Lindbergh and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) are teaming up to research and develop electric light aircraft if the FAA will come around on its recent proposal to practically exclude electric powered aircraft completely from the general aviation experience (see report from AOPA by clicking here) in the U.S. It’s an odd restriction, given the push for more sustainable and affordable propulsion technologies going on in general aviation around the world.

Need proof? Take a look at the excellent reporting on the recent Aero Friedrichshafen air show, held annually in Friedrichshafen, Germany. If you want to see aircraft teetering on the bleeding edge of alternative energy propulsion, that is the place to go.

Lindbergh flies the E-Spyder

Erik Lindbergh, grandson of Charles and Ann Morrow Lindbergh, tapped into that energy years ago because it dovetailed nicely with the green emphasis of his family’s foundation, the Lindbergh Foundation. Yet, his Powering Imagination initiative takes a new step.

“It is critical to create a sustainable future for aviation,” he said, announcing the new program. “Emissions and noise are issues that are causing increasing restrictions on aviation around the world. Solving these challenges will ensure that future generations can share our dreams of flight.”

ERAU’s Professor Pat Anderson, Director of the Eagle Flight Research Center at Embry-Riddle and his students have been working on green flight for years in their Green Flight Program, so the new alliance is a natural for them. They’ve had experience with both a Swiftfuel powered Piper and an electric and solar powered Stemme.

The students and faculty at the ERAU Daytona Beach, Florida campus plan to swap the piston-engine in a Diamond HK36 motorglider to electric power and test it in noise-sensitive areas to demonstrate the potential benefits of electric or hybrid-electric propulsion for significantly reducing noise. The aircraft, which they expect will fly in mid-2015, will also be used for testing new components of electric engines under real-world flight conditions. This airborne test lab will enable more efficient R&D on electric power systems.

In 2016 Lindbergh plans to follow in the footsteps of his grandparents, Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, by retracing their 1931 adventure across the United States, Canada, Siberia, Japan, and China, covering 8,000 nautical miles in a modern floatplane powered by alternative fuels.

It’s a wonderful plan, but first we need to make sure that electric powered and hybrid powered aircraft can do more than just be flying testbeds in the U.S.!

Amy Laboda

Amy Laboda has been writing, editing and publishing print materials for more than 28 years on an international scale. From conception to design to production, Laboda helps businesses and associations communicate through various media with their clients, valued donors, or struggling students who aspire to earn scholarships and one day lead. An ATP-rated pilot with multiple flight instructor ratings, Laboda enjoys flying her two experimental aircraft and being active in the airpark community in which she lives.

The opinions expressed by the bloggers do not reflect AOPA’s position on any topic.

  • Vlad Lenin

    What? The all knowing, all feeling FAA getting in the way of progress? That’s crazy talk. We all know the jack booted government thugs… I mean civil servants… only want the best for our country.

    • Mike

      Ah yes, calling your fellow citizens Nazi’s – always the sign of a dizzying intellect.

  • Bruce A. Frank

    Actually, it is just another step in the direction to eliminate all private flight. If you think that isn’t in the cards, you’re not paying attention.

  • William Harding

    There are no electric engines, only electric motors. This is so fundamental, as a CFI I would think you would know this. ???

  • BH

    William Harding, why should the distinction be obvious to a CFI? In any event, quit nit picking….

  • James Morton

    Well they couldn’t regulate the ultralite movement other than to restrict it a little and what we power our ultralite’s with is none of their damn business and not a thing they cvan do about it in most cases , because even if they outlaw it entirely there will be some of us who will go ahead and do it anyway.