Airbus electric aircraft takes to the skies

Imagine taking a peaceful flight, gliding along without much noise or any fuel, effortlessly descending into the airport without a trace of emissions.

Sounds like a dream? It is. But one we can imagine in the not-so-distant future.

E-Fan, the brainchild of parent Airbus Group, is a prototype hybrid electric motor glider which will first be used for training pilots for their license at a school in Bordeaux, France, by 2017.

It debuted with its first public test flight in April 2014, and the two-seater electric aircraft is powered by two batteries, producing 60 kilowatts of power, which will be able to run for half an hour.

The E-Fan has been a continuous journey of evolution, says chief technical officer Jean Botti. “This is a learning curve to get to the big ones in the future.”

It started five years ago when Airbus Group experimented with the Cri-Cri, a tiny plane based on the 1970s Cri-Cri, one of the smallest twin-engine planes in history.

Besides the benefits of noise and emissions reduction, the reduced cost of training pilots with the E-Fan is incredible, says Botti. It costs about two cents per hour to fly the electric plane, a number which is up to 20-50 times cheaper than the normal fuel costs of today’s aircraft, he says.

Ultimately, these savings will get passed on to the customer, explained Botti, as the electric-powered flight training becomes a reality.

What’s ahead for electric?

Eventually, the company has its eye on building planes for regional flights, with up to 90 people flying for three hours, although this is still 15-20 years away, says Botti.

“We’re not talking about replacing the A380,” he says. But the shorter-term goals also include helicopters with hybrid electric technology.

For Airbus Group, much of the investment is being mobilized by the European Commission’s “Flightpath 2050” which aims to cut aircraft CO2 emissions by 75%, and noise levels to be reduced by 65% from their 2000 levels.

The goal is to make tens to hundreds of these planes, and Airbus Group says it will be designed by schools with apprenticeship programs in order to help raise up the new engineers of tomorrow.

The biggest challenge for E-Fan is developing new energy storage. “We cannot afford to stay with the state of batteries today. We need to go much higher in terms of efficiency,” says Botti, adding that the company’s new research center in Munich, Germany, will have the capacity to do just that.

Alternative planes take off

It’s not just Airbus looking to alternative aircraft to help save energy, cut fuel consumption and reduce noise.

There are several others developing alternative aircraft with their own success. Recently, the Solar Impulse 2, a fully solar-powered aircraft, was unveiled by a Swiss duo which will attempt to fly non-stop for 120 hours without any fuel next year.

Made of carbon fiber, its predecessor, Solar Impulse, smashed aviation records as it succeeded in the first solar-powered overnight flight, lasting 26 hours in 2010.

Another creation is the Dutch-designed, German-built Antares 23E, an electric aircraft with 23-meter wings which can glide for 60 kilometers (37 miles). The Antares 23E can climb to 3,500 meters on a single battery charge.


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Students learn about aviation at local airport field trip

Students gained a behind-the-scenes glimpse at how an airport functions earlier this week, as the Yellowstone Airport invited local classrooms out for a day of fun in the world of aviation.

Yellowstone Airport manager Jeff Kadlec came up with the idea of a field trip for local students, and had Dave Hoerner and Stefani DeMars come down from the Montana Aeronautics Division in Helena to let the youngsters try out a flight simulator and sit in the cockpit of a Cessna 206, while giving each student a toy plane to take home.

Hoerner serves as the head safety and education bureau chief for the Montana Aeronautics Division, traveling around much of Montana for clinics all year. They do this, in part, to spread aviation awareness.

“We work a lot with kids to try to build awareness in aerospace and aviation,” Hoerner said. “In little towns they don’t get introduced to aviation, so we let them realize what aviation does. It’s not just a pilot, there’s a lot more to do in aviation than just flying. We’re trying to spark a little interest.”

Students in Shelley Johnson’s first-grade class and Jeanne Hoskins’ second-grade class came out for the morning, while Sarah Hanson’s sixth-grade class spent the afternoon at the airport.

As Johnson and Hoskins’ classes arrived, students first watched a short film, followed by hands-on time with a flight simulator. Later, students met with on-site Transportation Security Administration officers to learn about the various machines, scanners and technology they utilize to keep air travelers safe.

After individually weighing themselves on the airport baggage scale, students headed out onto the runway to meet with Air Idaho Rescue staff and get a close peek at a Bell 407 helicopter.

Before wrapping up the half-day excursion, Kadlec helped each student board a Cessna 206 airplane. This allowed youngsters to explore all the controls and pretend they were flying, if only for a moment.

Hoerner and DeMars assembled a free toy airplane for each student to take home, and many tested out their new set of wings on the runway before enjoying an ice cream treat to end the trip.

Kadlec says bringing students out to the airport helps show children how the airport works, while also introducing them to a possible career path.

“It’s a great opportunity for kids to be exposed to aviation at their own airport,” he said. “I think they hard fun; children are intrigued with flight.”

Kadlec says he became interested in aviation in a similar way as a child.

“I fell in love with aviation as a young child going to air shows,” he said. “If they catch the aviation bug, it’s a cool industry to get into.”

The airport manager says he looks to continue hosting field trips on an annual basis, as he wants all the students to eventually experience a similar field trip.

The airport also recently held an art competition with the school, where the top student art in each grade from K-6 will be put on display in the terminal throughout the airport’s summer season. Art being displayed includes the area’s wildlife, thermal features and landscapes.

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Fire on a Boeing 767 forces evacuation, sends five to hospital

MONTREAL – Seven people arriving on a Boeing 767 operated by Royal Air Maroc were treated for smoke inhalation Monday evening – after a fire on a baggage belt adjacent to an open cargo door in the aircraft’s belly triggered a full-scale emergency evacuation of 250 passengers and eight crew.

The incident took place on the tarmac at Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport in Dorval, airport public-relations spokesperson François Asselin said, with the fire reported at 4:47 p.m.

Three people suffered lower-body injuries “consistent of the type sustained in a sliding fall,” after they used the plane’s emergency exit slides, Marc-André Gagnon, operations chief at Urgences-Santé, said.

Five of the injured, all women, were treated on the scene and were then taken to a hospital, he said.

The other two injured, both men, refused to be hospitalized.

Asselin said the aircraft, operating as Flight 206 on a direct flight from Casablanca, Morocco, had touched down about 4:30 p.m.

“I can confirm there was smoke. I can’t confirm whether there was smoke inside the aircraft,” Asselin said.

The evacuation, he suggested, was “more of a precautionary measure.”

Asselin, who has spent about 15 years in the aviation business, said that “this is the first time I can recall such an incident at Montreal-Trudeau,” with emergency-slide deployment.

No dollar estimate of the monetary damages was immediately available.

The plane remains out of service, pending the arrival of investigators “first thing in the morning” from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, Asselin said.


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Search for missing airplane in Great Dismal Swamp continued

The wreckage of a small plane was found on the Virginia side of the Great Dismal Swamp Friday afternoon, but state police have not confirmed it is the plane officials have been searching for since Thursday.

A helicopter pilot instructor who volunteered to help Virginia State Police with the search found the wreckage about 4 p.m. and notified officials, state police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said in a news release.

Officials have not confirmed the wreckage found was that of a Cessna that was headed to the Hampton Roads Executive Airport from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Thursday afternoon but never arrived.

While searches on ground and by boat have been underway since Thursday, state police have not been able to use their own planes in the search because of the weather.

Virginia State Police and other agencies resumed their search Friday for a plane reported missing a day earlier after it did not arrive as scheduled to a Chesapeake airport.

State police, Civil Air Patrol, Tidewater Search and Rescue personnel, Chesapeake Fire and Rescue crews and state park rangers are scouring the Great Dismal Swamp for a Cessna airplane that was reported missing at about 4:15 p.m. Thursday after it did not arrive at the Hampton Roads Executive Airport, said Corinne Geller, a spokeswoman for Virginia State Police.

The plane — which was traveling from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. — lost its signal in the area of the swamp, Geller said.

Geller said officials are not confirming if there were passengers on the plane or confirming how many were on board if there were.

“We have been in touch with family members,” she said. “Our real focus today is locating the aircraft.”

As of noon Friday, officials had not found the aircraft or received reports of a plane crash, Geller said.

Crews are conducting a ground search of the area using dogs after an aerial search was called off Thursday night because of the weather. Planes remained grounded Friday after conditions had not improved.

The weather has made an already difficult search much harder, Geller said. She said vast and ever-changing terrain of the swamp poses significant challenges for search teams, in addition to crews not knowing exactly where to begin looking.

Anyone with information about the plane or may have seen a plane in the area should contact state police at 1-800-582-8350.

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Drunk passenger challenges airplane captain to a fight after stripping naked

A DRUNK airline passenger stripped naked and challenged the plane’s captain to a fight on airport tarmac before being tasered by police.

The burly, tattooed 52-year-old was caught on video stripping to his black underpants, shouting and remonstrating after stepping off the easyJet flight from Malta to Manchester.

He then removed his underpants and received a hard slap across his face by his female companion before putting his clothes back on.

The incident was caught on video. The stripper, who has not been identified but spoke with a Manchester accent, also urinated on the side of the Terminal One building at Manchester Airport and was later tasered and arrested by police.

Trouble reportedly first began mid-flight when the man became abusive and started swearing at fellow passengers and the captain left the cockpit controls to speak to him.

After being slapped following the plane’s landing, he put his clothes back on before going to collect his baggage but police caught up with him.

They tried to control him but had to stun him using a “dry” Taser – where the gun is held against the target to cause shock and pain – when he refused to co-operate.

He was then arrested and given an on-the-spot fine.

A spokesman for Greater Manchester Police said: “At 9.50am on Thursday September 26 2013, police were called to Terminal One arrivals of Manchester Airport following reports a man was drunk and being abusive to passengers on a flight from Malta.

“As he left the plane, he took his clothes off and urinated against a wall.

“A 52-year-old man was stunned using an electronic stun gun and arrested on suspicion of being drunk and disorderly in a public place. He was issued a fixed penalty notice.”


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