Paris, Amstelveen, Le Bourget, June 21, 2019 - During the Paris International Air Show at Le Bourget, the French civil aviation authority, DGAC, and the French Aviation Federation (FFA) organize a daily demonstration flight of the Pipistrel Alpha Electro, an all-electric, two-seater, single-engine light aircraft. The event is a high-point in the ground-breaking project pursued for a number of years by the FFA with the support of several partners, including AFI KLM E&M and the AIR FRANCE Group.
World first for a flying club
The FFA acquired the Alpha Electro from Slovenian manufacturer Pipistrel to evaluate its operation in real-life conditions in a flying club. Whereas until then the aircraft had only flown in an experimental, private capacity, the FFA coordinated a long and complex pioneering process which resulted, in March 2018, in the DGAC and EASA issuing a flight permit in the framework of a community association training process. The Alpha Electro was delivered in early 2019 to the FFA Fab'Lab' at Toussus-le-Noble airport in Greater Paris - a venue dedicated to evaluating innovative light aviation technology - and is currently being used to train federal pilot instructors. This is a world-first experiment that could soon lead to the use of the electric aircraft for training private pilots ab initio.
"Commercial aviation started with light aviation, this will also be the case with electric aviation", said Olivier Seyller, Air France captain and head of the airline's cadet training program. "The aircraft is powerful, has an hour of autonomy and is very simple and convenient to operate. It could very well become an alternative to traditional combustion-powered aircraft, for instance as part of training operations for our cadet pilots. "
A laboratory for the future of maintenance
AFI KLM E&M is closely involved in the FFA project, which chimes with the objectives and practices of its own platform dedicated to innovation, The MRO Lab. Apart from direct financial support, AFI KLM E&M is putting its mechanics' and technicians' expertise at the disposal of the FFA's Fab'Lab' to contribute to the evaluation of this new aircraft type.
"It is a small-scale laboratory for the future of aviation," commented James Kornberg, Director Engineering and Maintenance Innovation AFI KLM E&M. "We are naturally interested in the potential of electric propulsion and in all the new questions it raises in terms of certification, operability, and, of course, maintenance. Our experts contribute their support to the FFA and in return, we benefit from a unique observation post for the behavior of an electric aircraft in real operating conditions. That can only teach us a lot about only-just emerging technologies, but ones that have a tremendous potential for the coming decades."
An opportunity for the Aviation Careers Apprentice Training Center
The initiative of the FFA and its Fab'Lab' also constitutes an opportunity for the Aviation Careers Apprentice Training Center (CFA), of which AFI KLM E&M was a founder and which has a training center at Toussus-le-Noble airport. In the coming months, the Alpha Electro could be put at the disposal of the CFA's instructors and trainees as part of an initial approach to training mechanics in electric aircraft maintenance, and especially their batteries.
Energy and societal transition
The evaluation of this type of aircraft contributes to the efforts of the entire aviation industry to reduce the environmental impact of air transport, particularly in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and noise pollution for people living near aerodromes.
"We are delighted to be able to count on a major player like AIR FRANCE and its Engineering & Maintenance Division to support us in our innovative program," said FFA President Jean-Luc Charron. "For many years, the FFA has worked on the concept of the flying club of the future to prepare optimally for the energy and societal transition of light sport aviation. The deployment of the Alpha Electro is a unique opportunity to construct a new framework for the piloting and maintenance of electric aircraft and to build up a precious fund of feedback. But this is only a first stage for our Fab'Lab' at Toussus-le-Noble: ultimately, we aim to place a whole fleet of electric aircraft at the disposal of pilots in our flying clubs so that we can continue to explore this genuine technological leap forward."