First electric planes fly over English Channel

Pilot Didier Esteyne, left, raises his arms after crossing the Channel with his European planemaker Airbus E-Fan prototyp, at the Calais Airport, Friday, July 10, 2015. Airbus flew its electric plane across the English Channel for the first time Friday, hours after a French pilot made a similar voyage in his electric plane — journeys seen as a symbolically important step toward making electronic flight viable in the long term. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)
Pilot Didier Esteyne, left, raises his arms after crossing the Channel with his European planemaker Airbus E-Fan prototyp, at the Calais Airport, Friday, July 10, 2015. Airbus flew its electric plane across the English Channel for the first time Friday, hours after a French pilot made a similar voyage in his electric plane — journeys seen as a symbolically important step toward making electronic flight viable in the long term. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)
Airbus flew its electric plane across the English Channel for the first time Friday — hours after an independent French pilot made a similar voyage, beating the aeronautics giant in this symbolically important step toward making electronic flight viable in the long term.

Several companies in different countries are developing electric planes, in hopes of offering a fuel-free flight alternative for the future — and the battle to perform world “firsts” in electric planes is heating up as the technology becomes more durable.

Amid fanfare, European planemaker Airbus flew its E-fan plane from Lydd, England, to the French port of Calais on Friday morning. The plane operates exclusively on batteries, and since there’s no oil or water, the 20-foot long, 1300-pound jet releases zero emissions.

About 12 hours before Airbus’ Channel flight, French pilot Hugues Duval took his two-engine, one-seat Cricri plane from Calais to Dover and back.

Because he lacked authorization to take off from Calais, another fuel-driven plane towed his 100-kilogram (220-pound) Cricri for the start of the trip, he told The Associated Press. Then he flew autonomously back to Calais and landed safely.

He said he reached a speed of 150 kilometers (90 miles) an hour on his 52-kilometer (31-mile) journey.

Duval told The AP that his successful flight was a “relief” and an “important moment” after years of fine-tuning the plane and flying it over land.

Airbus officials gathered in Calais to celebrate the landing of the E-fan would not comment on Duval’s trip.

The E-fan took its maiden voyage in March 2014, and has taken off 100 times since its latest flight at the Paris Air Show last month. Airbus aims to put the two-seater on the market in 2017, targeting sales at training facilities for entry-level pilots.

“It’s a great victory, but it’s also a start. For us it’s an adventure that permits us” to imagine commercial flight on electric or hybrid planes, said pilot Didier Esteyne, who flew the Airbus plane Friday. “It’s really the beginning of great innovations.”

The choice of flight path was not coincidental: In 1909, French pilot Louis Bleriot was the first person to fly a plane across the English Channel.

Safety was of secondary priority for Bleriot — he was concentrated on winning 1,000 pounds in prize money from the British Daily Mail newspaper by performing the feat first.

For Airbus’ flight Friday, security professionals were out in full force, with helicopters and rescue speed boats trailing the E-fan.

Electric flight is a nascent sector of the aviation industry, so safety regulations are still in development. Airbus and the French civil aviation authorities worked together to create a test flight program for the jets.

While the E-fan only seats two for now, the aircraft manufacturer is aiming bigger down the line. Chief Technical Officer Jean Botti told The Associated Press at the Paris Air Show last month, “Our objective here is to make a hybrid-electric hundred seater for the future,” calling it an ambition Airbus could realize in the next 15 years.

Slovenian company Pipistrel was also hoping to send its electric plane across the Channel this week. But engine-maker Siemens blocked the trip at the last minute, saying the motor didn’t have authorization to fly over water, Pipistrel general manager Ivo Boscarol told The AP.

Boscarol said he felt his plane was ready for the journey and estimated that about 10 other electric planes currently in development are also capable of making the flight. He said he hopes to continue working with Siemens in the future to develop the plane.

He compared this week’s flights to those of Bleriot 106 years ago, saying “the Channel, in aviation, has a special place. It’s kind of religious.”

ASSOCIATED PRESS /MY WAY

  • vs

    (planes topic) July 13, at the air base, “Balad” in Iraq landed four combat aircraft F-16. This is the first batch of 36 aircrafts which were bought and paid for by Iraq back in 2011.
    The Iraqi Air Force had to get the first planes a year ago. However, in the summer of 2014 the militants of “Islamic state” came close to the airbase, “Balad”. Because of this, the delivery was frozen

    • 5thDrawer

      Sensible delay … Is there anyone left who can fly them??

      • vs

        Aircraft were sent to Arizona. There also arrived and pilots selected for piloting an F-16. It is noteworthy that the maintenance of complex equipment was entrusted to the American contractors.
        On June 25, 2015 near the town of Douglas, Arizona crashed one of the aircraft transferred to the Iraqis. Killed piloted F-15 Iraqi Air Force Brigadier General Rashid Kassam

        • 5thDrawer

          Playing with War-Toys has always been a dangerous occupation.

          • O

            Is that how your wife left?

          • Patience2

            I just happened to read the ‘O’rfice’s’ response to this comment of yours and started to wonder why these persistent ‘pukes’ with nothing to say MUST say it here on YaLibnan??

          • O

            Sweetie, you are what comes out of an orifice. .

          • O

            And why is a puke like you saying nothing!’

          • 5thDrawer

            Yah Patience .. it’s a question with no answer … even going back into a July story to get in a personal shot at any comment made by someone else is slightly ludicrous.
            I really still think someone is paying for the disservice … and someone needs a job.

          • O

            “even going back into a July story to get in a personal shot at any comment made by someone else is slightly ludicrous.”

            Sweetie, your hypocrisy is there in black and white. Typical Christian white supremacist, senile ass licking geriatric.

  • vs

    (planes) The Irish company Ryanair, Europe’s largest low-cost carrier, began selling tickets for the route Athens-Chania (Crete), Athens-Rhodes and Athens-Thessaloniki at a symbolic price of about 7 euros. This special offer, made within the framework of assistance to the population is experiencing an economic crisis in Greece, it remains in force from 13th to 26 July

    • 5thDrawer

      And all one needs to do is get to Athens.

  • 5thDrawer
    • O

      And you can drive by your wife’s (resting) place :)))))).
      How is she btw?

  • 5thDrawer
  • vs

    The aircraft airline Lufthansa, flying from Frankfurt to Tallinn on Wednesday, November 18, , made an emergency landing in Berlin because of a cracked windshield
    On board was the President of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves and his office staff

  • vs

    Russia and China signed a contract to purchase 24 new Su-35 fighters worth at least $2 billion http://lenta.ru/news/2015/11/19/su35/

  • vs

    Nasa signs first contracts with SpaceX for manned commercial spaceflight http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/nov/20/nasa-signs-contracts-spacex-manned-commercial-spaceflight

  • Patience2

    I’ll just bet they had a boat (or several) following along underneath!