The aviation industry recorded another historic moment Friday when an electric-powered aircraft became the first in the world to cross the English Channel — the latest step towards greening the aviation industry.
Airbus is hailing the historic flight, manned by French pilot Didier Esteyne, as a major step towards bringing hybrid, electric-powered flights to commercial aviation.
The ultimate goal? To develop a fleet of electric-powered aircraft capable of shuttling up to a hundred passengers for regional airlines, said Jean Botti, chief technical officer.
On Friday morning, Esteyne climbed aboard the twin-engine Airbus E-Fan plane in Lydd, England, and piloted the aircraft 74 km across the English Channel, landing in Calais, France after about 37 minutes in flight.
The stunt comes more than a hundred years after another Frenchman, Louis Blériot, became the first to cross the Channel in a powered, fixed-wing aircraft.
Immediately following the landing, Botti, standing alongside Esteyne at the Calais airport, called the flight a symbolic stepping stone and one that heralds a new era in civil aviation.
“This is just the beginning,” he said.
The E-Fan is powered by electric, lithium-ion batteries that are stored in the wings. The batteries enable up to 53 minutes of flight time.
It’s the latest green-minded innovation to emerge from the traditionally carbon-heavy aviation industry.
Last week, Solar Impulse 2 logged the world’s longest solar-powered flight when it successfully flew 6,437 km (4,000 miles) from Nagoya, Japan to Hawaii as part of its worldwide tour to promote renewable energy and clean technology.
And last month, United Airlines announced plans to power their planes with fuel made from household waste — food scraps, farm waste and animal fats.
The US carrier is investing $30 million in biofuel company Fulcrum, which will translate to about 90 million gallons of sustainable aviation fuel a year for the next 10 years.
The investment marks the single largest made in an alternative fuels company by a US airline.