All-Electric Plane Makes English Channel Crossing for First Time
All-Electric Plane Makes English Channel Crossing for First Time

The E-Fan, an Airbus creation that runs on motors powered by lithium-ion batteries, crossed the English channel earlier today, claiming the title of the first all-electric aircraft to have reached the geographic benchmark.

The 1,300-pound aircraft took off in Lydd, England and alighted Calais, France, completing the 31-mile journey in 37 minutes, reaching a peak altitude of  3,500 feet.

Airbus CTO Jean Botti welcoming Didier Esteyne (L), the pilot of the E-Fan, celebrating his flight across the English channel in Calais, France on July 10, 2015. (Airbus)
Airbus CTO Jean Botti welcoming Didier Esteyne (L), the pilot of the E-Fan, celebrating his flight across the English channel in Calais, France on July 10, 2015. (Airbus)

The E-Fan had already taken more than a hundred flights in preparation for the Channel crossing.

Didier Esteyne, the pilot of the E-Fan’s channel flight, who also designed the aircraft, has extensive experience as a competitive aerobatic display pilot.

Airbus’s claim to the title of flying the first electric plane across the English Channel has been disputed by Hugues Duval, who reported crossing the channel in an electric Crici plane hours before Airbus.

Airbus Group s E-Fan technology demonstrator became the world s first all-electric two engine aircraft taking off by its own power to successfully cross the Channel on 10 July 2015,  some 106 years after Louis Bleriot s epic flight.Here just before landing in Calais.
Airbus Group s E-Fan technology demonstrator became the world s first all-electric two engine aircraft taking off by its own power to successfully cross the Channel on 10 July 2015, some 106 years after Louis Bleriot s epic flight.Here just before landing in Calais. (Airbus)

Duval didn’t take off in his plane, however. It had to be initially towed by another plane because he lacked permission from aerospace authorities, a detail Airbus has seized on to argue that his flight was illegitimate.

“We are not worried. It would not count because we understand he set off from another plane. We applaud the intrepid aviator that did this, although the actual details are yet to be confirmed,” said an Airbus spokesman.

Airbus plans to start the production a 2-seater model of the E-fan in 2017, and they’re not the only ones interested in electric planes. NASA has already began experimenting with the concept. Exciting as these early experiments are, we’re still a bit far from all-electric airplanes replacing gasoline-guzzling commercial carriers some time soon.

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