Australia to enter electric aircraft market

Photo: Pipistrel

Eyre to There Aviation intends to be Australia’s first manufacturer of electric aircraft, having signed a deal to build Pipistrel’s Alpha Electro aircrafts in Adelaide.

Managing director, Barrie Rogers, said the electric aeroplane designed by Slovenian light aircraft manufacturer Pipistrel was marketed towards the flight training market. The company will initially import 15 assembled aircraft and establish an assembly line in Adelaide to manufacture up to 100 aircraft a year.

The first of the planes is already in Adelaide with its maiden South Australian flight taking place this month.

The two-seat plane will be tailored for use in flight schools, with a short take-off distance and a 1,000-feet-per-minute climb capability.

One of the key drivers was Australia being ahead of the regulation game in terms of flying the electric aircraft, Rogers said, claiming the planes were ideal for the more than 250 registered flight schools in Australia.

“Australia is currently the only country in the world that already certifies electric aircraft for training purposes, so we have an opportunity to be a world leader,” Rogers said

“Electric aircraft are cheaper to buy, cheaper to run, are significantly quieter than conventional aircraft and don’t rely on fossil fuels. And they are ideally suited for short range flight training activities.

“We’re using battery technology rather than fuel technology, less maintenance and from a training point of view, obviously, a lot less operating cost,” he said.

Until now, the electric aircraft industry had been hampered by the heavy weight of the battery needed in each plane but Rogers said technological advancements had reduced its size “to a point where electric aircraft are now commercially viable in Australia”.

“Electric aircraft don’t yet have the range of other aircraft but they’re perfect for short flights such as flight training and particularly circuit training, which is a core activity in obtaining a private pilot licence,” he said.

Rogers said the time was right to introduce the new technology as the average age of a small single engine aeroplane in Australia was 36.4 years with many nearing the end of their life span.

“We see a clear market opportunity to provide brand new, low-cost aircraft that have zero emissions,” Rogers said.