Sonex Aircraft's electric sports plane makes successful maiden flight
By Darren Quick
December 20, 2010
Sonex Aircraft’s proof-of-concept electric-powered Waiex sports aircraft has successfully completed its maiden flight. The flight earlier this month follows four years of development of the aircraft, with the data to be used to determine if any firmware adjustments are needed before proceeding to full traffic pattern and extended-duration test flights.
The proof-of-concept N270DC aircraft used in the first test flight was a standard Waiex kit aircraft modified with the installation of E-Flight electric power components that include an E-Flight 54 kW brushless DC electric motor, E-Flight electronic motor controller, 14.5 kWh lithium polymer battery system, E-Flight battery management system, and E-Flight cockpit instrumentation and controls.
The maiden flight, which took place on December 3, 2010 at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, was piloted by Sonex founder John Monnett. The flight consisted of a short hop on runway 27 that was intended as a conservative non-pattern flight to break ground-effect and analyze in-flight system performance for the next step in the testing program.
“Every first flight of a new aircraft or powerplant design is an interesting experience,” said John Monnett, “but with N270DC more than any other aircraft we’ve built, I experienced just a glimpse of what the Wright Brothers must have felt like flying an unproven system for the first time. The flight was uneventful, as expected, but it represents a huge emotional victory for our team to check this item off the list.”
Monnett added that the team has a flight envelope expansion plan it will be working on in the coming weeks and months. It has also already started work on the design for the motor v4.0 and motor controller x12.0 that are to be integrated on the N270DC.
Sonex Aircraft embarked on its E-Flight Initiative flight project on 2006, revealing it to the public at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2007. During that time the company says it has had to overcome a variety of challenges in engineering, building and testing electric components at the leading edge of technology. The successful first flight test for the project will no doubt spur the team onto greater electric-powered heights.