E-Plane Aims for Atlantic Crossing
With a cruising speed of just over 60 mph (100 km/h), French aviator Raphaël Dinelli hopes to fly his tiny, single-seat, stagger-winged hybrid airplane from New York to Paris, retracing Charles Lindbergh's famous 1927 flight in the Spirit of St. Louis. Where "Lucky Lindy's" Ryan monoplane was powered by a 223 hp (155kW) Wright Whirlwind J-5C and 450 gallons of aviation fuel, the Eraole will be using a combination of algal-based biofuel and solar power provided by 43 m2 (463 square) feet of thin-film solar cells, some 1,728 of them embedded in the wing and fuselage surfaces. At this time, little is actually known about the the ultralite's hybrid power system. Presumably Dinelli and his team are using a small engine generator capable of burning the biofuel to provide 55% of the electric motor's energy needs with another 25% coming from the 5.5kW solar array. The remaining 20% will come from the plane's 30 m2 of wing area and glide capacitor. The plane also has 3 packs of Kokam Li-Po batteries rated at a total of 80Ah for energy storage.
Unlike the far larger Solar Impulse, which is now readying to resume its around-the-world flight from Hawaii where battery issues temporarily grounded it, the Eraole isn't strictly a zero emission plane. It's referred to as "zero carbon" aircraft because of its use of a fuel derived from algae. And where the Solar Impulse uses four electric motors, Dinelli's creation has but one which can propel it though the air at around a 65 mph cruising speed, half that of the Spirit of St. Louis, meaning the flight will take twice as long as the 33 hours it took Lindbergh.
The one advantage the Eraole has over its American predecessor is advanced navigation made possible by a global GPS satellite network. But even in 1927, Lindbergh did a remarkable job of crossing 3,000 miles of ocean making landfall on the Irish coast within 3 miles of his intended crossing point. Dinelli plans, weather permitting, to make the attempt starting in June of this year.
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