Flying into the history books is one thing. But a California-based electric aerospace company are hoping to take a leaf out of the history books for their latest adventure.
Flight of the Century, Inc. want to emulate the pioneer of trans-Atlantic flight himself, Charles Lindbergh, with a 3,600-mile trip from New York to Paris.
They hope to build an all-electric aircraft for the trip, currently planned for 2014, which they say will be non-stop. In order to achieve this aim Flight of the Century said they will launch a series of flying UAV battery pods, which will dock with the aircraft and recharge it in-flight.
If this sounds like pie in the sky, we would forgive you for being skeptical. That said, the company does have quite a bit of experience behind it in the electric vehicle world. The CEO is Chip Yates. Yates is the racer and designer of a 240 horsepower, 400 pounds of torque electric motorcycle, which was clocked at the Mojave Mile speed trial competition going at 190 MPH last year.
According to Yates, the trans-Atlantic flight will mirror as close as possible Lindbergh’s historic flight. They will follow the exact route and mileage flown by Lindbergh; they will travel at an equal or faster average speed (Lindbergh averaged 108 MPH) and they will keep to the same altitude or lower.
Since the airfield where Lindbergh set off from — Roosevelt Field, NY — no longer exists, they will select a New York takeoff location as close as practicable to the original site.
The craft is expected to have a wingspan greater than 100 feet. The flight will be manned non-stop and will not go above 10,000 feet.
“Our purpose in setting out on this very difficult path is to force innovation that drives electric flight technology forward in a significant and measurable way,” Yates said in a statement. “You could fly this route today in an unmanned solar craft at 80,000 feet being blown over there by the Jetstream, or in something incredibly slow, or in a balloon, but that doesn’t get our society any closer to realizing long-range, legitimate payload, electric flight capabilities that everybody can actually benefit from.”
The centerpiece of their record attempt will be their recently patented system which Yates claims will allow electric aircraft to stay airborne for indefinite periods of time by docking with flying UAV battery pods.
To help with the flight the company has also developed a software tool based on NASA technology which it says will allow it to spot out ideal locations along the route from which to launch the flying battery pods. One scenario envisages the use of five strategically launched and recovered UAV battery packs.
Ahead of the 2014 attempt, Flight of the Century says it has built a 258 horsepower electric test aircraft, which it plans to fly for the first time in July. The converted Long-EZ, dubbed the Long-ESA (“Electric Speed & Altitude”), will allow the company to test out its docking system, as well as to attempt altitude and speed records for manned electric flight.