20 American Pilots Fly Test the Most Un-USAF Aircraft Ever, It's Electric

Pipistrel Velis Electro 6 photos
Photo: Pipistrel
Pipistrel Velis ElectroPipistrel Velis ElectroPipistrel Velis ElectroPipistrel Velis ElectroPipistrel Velis Electro
When you think about military airplanes your mind immediately imagines powerful machines with a streamlined design, capable of flying fast and delivering a mighty punch. And the mind probably always pairs these images with jet engines of some kind or another, because that's how military planes have rolled for decades now. But in the real world that's about to change.
The electrification bug has engulfed the aviation industry as well, and even if the pace of research and development here is much slower than in the car industry, electric airplanes are coming. And they'll probably be used by the military as well, so people ought to get ready.

The U.S. Air Force (USAF) is currently trying to get its bearings when it comes to electric aircraft. And it starts with something it likes to call the clarification and validation of expectations about electric aviation usage.

More to the point a series of electric aircraft will be flown by USAF pilots throughout the year. The planes themselves will not be the subject of the study, but the way pilots see and feel them will.

Earlier this month, for instance, the pilots and commander of the 96th Test Wing based at the Eglin Air Force Base in Florida were treated with what you may consider to be joyrides in an electric aircraft. It's a plane that has the most un-military appearance you'll ever see, but it meets the target of being electric.

The plane is the Pipistrel Velis Electro, "the greenest way of learning to fly." Produced in Slovenia, the aircraft is the world's first ever type certified electric powered aircraft, being cleared to take to the sky in no less than 30 countries around the world.

The Velis Electro is powered by a single forward propeller, spun by an electric motor capable of developing 77 horsepower. That may not seem like much, but it's more than enough for the plane to be able to lift a crew of two to altitudes of 12,000 feet (3,657 meters).

The battery pack installed in the plane is enough to keep it going for as much as 50 minutes at speeds of 113 mph (181 kph). The battery can be charged from 30 to 100 percent in just two hours.

One Pipistrel Velis Electro was on location at Eglin these past few weeks, and no less than 20 test pilots took turns climbing on board together with an instructor. Each pilot was treated to a flight that lasted about 45 minutes, during which pattern work, area maneuvering, and stalls were practiced.

Once the joyrides were over the pilots were asked to provide feedback and observations of their experience. The USAF calls these qualitative evaluations, and they are used to steer the USAF toward giving more attention to electric aircraft. Or not.

The Pipistrel plane will not be the only one to be put through its paces this year, as the USAF has four different aircraft lined up for similar flights..
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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