By Paul Homewood
I had a model plane that was powered by rubber bands when I was a boy, but you would not fly across the Atlantic on one!
When a one-person plane powered purely by electricity took to the skies above the village of Little Snoring, it was a remarkable achievement in British engineering.
The maiden voyage of the first all-electric light aircraft designed and built entirely in the UK could herald the beginning of a new, homegrown, zero-emissions aerospace manufacturing industry.
But its victory lap didn’t last long. The plane was up for just 33 minutes above the airfield in Norfolk, before it came back down for a recharge.
The all-electric microlight aeroplane could last up to 90 minutes on full charge “on paper”, according to Guy Gratton, an associate professor of aviation at Cranfield University, who piloted the Sherwood eKub.
The plane was manufactured by The Light Aircraft Company (TLAC), which sells small planes to hobbyists around the world, and built by a British-based consortium led by Mr Gratton.
It is a major achievement in the race to establish emission-free air travel which the Government has backed with its Jet Zero Council. But it is unlikely to be the answer to eliminate the guilt from your overseas holidays any time soon.
Why is soppy Emma Gatten writing this, instead of the Telegraph’s aviation editor, who might know what he is talking about? (And, by the way, I don’t have any guilt about flying!)
As any aviation expert would have told her, battery powered flight has a fundamental obstacle, which it cannot overcome except for this sort of microlight, short range flight – the ratio of weight to energy density.
Put simply, to install enough battery capacity for a longer flight would add too much weight to the aircraft for it to be in any way useful.
This microlight might find a niche amongst hobbyists. But as the Managing Director of TLAC admits:
“For the hobbyist, the leisure aviator, there is undoubtedly a market for it. But I’m certainly not basing my entire company’s future business on the project.”