Electric Plane Crosses Strait for First Time

New Zealand pilot had power left over
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 1, 2021 5:25 PM CDT
Electric Plane Crosses Strait for First Time
The ElectricAir plane makes its landing approach Monday at Wellington Airport in Wellington, New Zealand.   (Mark Mitchell/New Zealand Herald via AP)

As he made history by becoming the first person to fly across New Zealand's Cook Strait in an electric plane, Gary Freedman thought it only fitting that the first thing he saw when approaching the Wellington coastline was the rotating blade of a wind turbine producing renewable energy. Freedman's 40-minute solo flight in the small two-seater came 101 years after the first person flew a conventional aircraft over the body of water that separates the South Pacific nation's two main islands. Monday's flight was aimed at drawing attention to the possibilities of greener flying and timed to coincide with the opening of the UN climate summit in Scotland, the AP reports.

Wellington International Airport officials say it may be the longest distance flown in an electric plane across any body of water. "It's a very exciting day for the airport. A world-record-setting day," said spokesperson Jenna Raeburn. Freedman said the day began badly with pouring rain at his departure point near the town of Blenheim. After he delayed the flight for 15 minutes, the weather cleared just enough for takeoff and soon improved to sunny conditions over the ocean. Freedman said he was ecstatic when he landed, and the technology worked better than he'd hoped. "We still had 40% left in the battery," he said. "We could have almost flown back again."

Freedman, 49, who founded the company ElectricAir, said the idea came as he thought about the incongruity of driving an electric car and flying a gas-powered plane. He went to Slovenia to buy a Pipistrel Alpha Electro plane, then jumped through various hoops with New Zealand aviation regulators to get the plane cleared. It weighs less than 880 pounds and is much quieter than a traditional aircraft. For the 48 mile-trip, Freedman flew just 1,000 feet above sea level and at the relatively slow speed of 81mph in order to preserve its charge. Freedman said it takes about one hour to fully charge the plane; the maximum flight time is also about an hour. The technology is not advanced enough to power large planes, Raeburn said, but biofuels and hydrogen will likely provide greener alternatives in the future.

(Read more New Zealand stories.)

We use cookies. By Clicking "OK" or any content on this site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. Read more in our privacy policy.
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.