Airbus flight becomes first electric plane to cross Channel

The Airbus E-Fan becomes the first twin-engine electric plane to cross the English Channel after completing its maiden flight between Lydd in Kent and Calais in northern France.

KENT, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (JULY 10, 2015) (AIRBUS) – The Airbus E-Fan became the first twin engine electric flight to cross the English Channel on Friday (July 10), after taking off from Lydd airfield in Kent, south east England and successfully landing 74km away in Calais, France.

Professor Simon Bradley, head of the Airbus Global Innovation Network, told Reuters it was a historic day in the company’s history, more than one hundred years after Frenchman Louis Bleriot completed the first flight across the English Channel in 1909.

”We’re obviously always pushing the boundaries. This is the very first time we have flown an all electric aircraft over the water, across the Channel,” he said.

Airbus test pilot Didier Esteyne completed the flight in 37 minutes.

He said that piloting an electric flight felt different to traditionally powered aircraft.

”It’s closer than a glider. Of course, there is a little bit of noise, but less than any other aeroplane first and also, there is no vibration at all. It’s smooth and it’s very quiet. That’s very important. It’s a pleasure to fly this plane,” he said.

The E-Fan is a light two seater aircraft, weighing 600 kilogrammes; it can reach a maximum speed of 220km per hour.

Professor Bradley said that people shouldn’t have safety concerns over electric powered flights.

”These days, people use batteries in all the devices they have at home. They have batteries in their mobile phones; the batteries we are using today are standard lithium batteries. They are not anything strange. I think people will take it when it has been certified and when it has been proven to be safe. This is one step on that journey,” he said.

It’s hoped that electric powered planes would help to cut carbon emissions significantly from flying.

Professor Ian Risk, who helped to engineer the aircraft, said that greener aircraft could be a possibility across commercial flights.

”In terms of the near future for passenger aircraft, the idea for us generally is to look at some kind of hybrid solution between a carbon-based traditional power unit and an electric power unit,” he said.

After Friday’s successful flight, Airbus are already working on the E-Fan 2.0, another two seater electric plane to help to train pilots.

If successful, they will then begin to develop their first four seater electric powered plane in the future.