In the fast paced modern world, sitting on a plane for seven to eight hours on an air trip across the Atlantic may seem too much a chore for a frequent flyer. However, ninety three years back, a non-stop flight from New York to Paris was so unimaginable that Raymond Orteig a French-born New York City hotelier, offered a cash prize of US$25,000 (something close $1,180,034 when you adjust it for inflation) for anyone who would finish a non-stop flight from Paris to New York or vice versa. The prize remained unclaimed despite some valiant efforts until a young airmail pilot named Charles Lindenberg took off from Roosevelt Field in the U.S. aboard a plane called the Spirit of St Louis in May 1927. The history making flight landed at France's Le Bourget Field thirty three and a half hours later and paved the way for the modern transatlantic passenger flights. Eighty five years after that feat and in a world when air travel has become a routine affair, Chip Yates, the maker of the fastest electric motorcycle at the moment has chosen to recreate that historic flight with an all-electric aircraft!
With a team named Flight of the Century backing him, Yates has publicized his intention to chart the same route taken by Charles Lindbergh 85 years ago and fly non-stop from New York to Paris on an electric aircraft. Even today, all-electric vehicles are not so well-equipped to handle long distance travels given the restraints of current battery technologies. However, Yates and his team is claiming that the 3,600 mile non-stop flight would open up the possibilities for making long-haul flights around the world all-electric.
The aircraft to be used in the journey would be based on technology developed by FOTC (Flight of the Century) that would allow them to fly non-stop for 24 hours using an electric aircraft. The battery deployment solution, called Infinite Range Electric Flight technology, is currently awaiting a patent and would involve a process of ejecting depleted battery packs via JBS (Jettison and Balance System) that would allow the craft to drop off dead batteries (that will be fitted with GPS-guided chutes, collected and recharged for later use) hence reducing its load and extending the range of the batteries on board.
FOTC acquired the futuristic-looking Long-EZ Aircraft designed by Burt Rutan in April earlier this year and have already begun work on converting it into an all-electric affair. The liquid cooled custom electric motor and controller to be used on the craft will be fitted with a Kinetic Energy Recovery System and will come with a 3,100 rpm custom built CATTO propeller being mated to the 258 horsepower motor. The motor will be powered by lithium-ion polymer battery packs that will be custom made weighing 230 pounds each. Each pack is capable of 31 Ah, 600 amp continuous output as well outputting 12.4 kWh and 453 volts on an electric superbike program.
The electric Long-ESA’s ballistic parachutes are being created by Ballistic Recovery Systems who have donated the expertise of an engineer to the project. The US Navy too has expressed a great interest in the project and has agreed to lend tracking cameras, radar, test range telemetry, experts in UAV development and testing and the use of their military controlled airspace at China Lake. Working closely with the grandson of Charles Lindbergh, Erik, FOTC expect the journey to use five UAV pods during the flight that will maintain the same altitude and speed as the legendary flight with NASA-based software allowing them to chart the best routes and locations for launching and recovering exhausted battery packs ejected from the flight. The conversion will be finished by the end of July with tests beginning shortly after that.