On November the 2nd of 2017, the updated version of China’s first electric airplane had its maiden flight. It is a two-seat electric trainer aircraft — similar to the Pipistrel electric aircraft plus other industry efforts to develop electric aircraft or hybrid aircraft and the required components and subsystems.
The RX1E-A was designed by the Shenyang Aerospace University and it completed the testing at Caihu airport in Shengyang, Liaoning province.
Here is a video of the flight:
First unveiled in 2015, the RX1E originally had a 45 minute flight range. Now, in November 2017, the RX1E-A was unveiled and has a 2 hour flight range. After the flight, it was announced that a larger four-seater would be developed. The original RX1E went into mass production in 2016 but RX1E started development in 2012.
The aircraft maximum cruise speed is 160 km/h, maximum takeoff weight is 600 kilograms, and the RX1E-A can fly to an altitude of nearly 3,000 meters. The aircraft design also integrates an emergency parachute to enable safe landing in emergency situations. Numbers for purchasing price have not been revealed, but the original aircraft was said to be 1,000,000 RMB ($145,202).
Zou Haining, deputy head of Liaoning General Aviation Academy, was quoted as saying that the extended range will help it tap into markets in United states and Europe. Additionally, speaking about a possible four-seat version, Zou Haining said:
“We believe there’s a big demand for that type of electric plane, which can carry a bigger load on longer flights. It would transport both people and goods,” he said. “And we will continue to improve the performance of electric planes.”
The cheaper running costs and fuel costs might see this and other electric trainer aircraft become to the norm rather than the exception in the next couple of years. Each flight hour is claimed to cost 10 RMB ($1.45) according to Xiang Song, who is one of the designers of the RX1E-A.
A number of markets might be interested in this product — pilot training, short-range transportation, tourism, media, and local government services, to name a few.
In my life, I have seen electric cars go from joke to reality. It seems like another daydream is about to become real. Yet the proof is in the pudding — we have to wait to see if they can deliver this product in China and then the rest of the world. Let’s keep a eye on this developing market together.