The successful first public flight of the electric E-Fan experimental aircraft was the highlight of Airbus Group’s E-Aircraft Day in Bordeaux, France, last month.
The flight demonstration was attended by Arnaud Montebourg, French Minister for Economy, Industrial Renewal and Digital Economy, Alain Rousset, President of the Aquitaine Region, Josy Reiffers, who represented Alain Juppé, President of the Communauté Urbaine de Bordeaux and Alain Anziani, Senator and Mayor of Mérignac.
The electric E-Fan training aircraft is an innovative technology experimental demonstrator based on an all-composite construction. Airbus Group and its partners are aiming to perform research and development to construct a series version of the E-Fan and propose an industrial plan for a production facility close to Bordeaux Airport. Airbus Group’s research efforts support the environmental protection goals of the European Commission, as outlined in its “Flightpath 2050” program.
The E-fan is propelled by two ducted, variable pitch fans spun by two electric motors totaling 60 kW of power. Ducting increases thrust while reducing noise, and having the fans mounted centrally provides better control. The motors moving the fans are powered by a series of 250 Volt lithium-ion polymer batteries made by South Korean company KOKAM. The batteries are mounted in the inboard section of the wings and have enough power for one hour, and take one hour to recharge; an onboard backup battery is available to make an emergency landing if power runs out while airborne.
The E-fan’s undercarriage consists of two retractable fore and aft wheels, with another two under the wings. They are powered by a 6 kW electric motor that not only taxis the plane, but is capable of accelerating it to 60 km/h (37 mph; 32 kn) for take offs; having the take off performed by the undercarriage relieves some of the burden from the flight motors.
“The E-Fan project and Airbus Group’s commitment to the field of electric and hybrid research show our vision of future technological developments. It will not only lead to a further reduction in aircraft emissions and noise to support our environmental goals but will also lead to more economic and efficient aircraft technology in the long run. Our focus is to develop innovations that will help define what tomorrow’s aerospace industry will look like,” said Airbus Group Chief Technical Officer Jean Botti.