The latch, which was bonded in place and had no
visible way to be disassembled, now sat in the same
location, but as a mirror image. Now, when the latch
closed, it folded into itself and out of the way. I’ve had
20 hours in this plane, and every time I open or close the
latch, I wonder how they did that.
After two days of assembly, we called the FAA flight
standards district office (FSDO) for our airworthiness
certificate, and we found out that the two FAA inspectors
who were championing the project had been reassigned.
The FSDO had no idea what we were talking about. An
electric plane? Really?
With their help, we found a designated airworthiness
representative willing to take on the project and work under
the supervision of the local FSDO, FAA manufacturing
inspection district office, and FAA headquarters in
Washington, D.C. To their credit, everyone who saw the
airplane and learned about its systems left with a new
understanding—and even support—for electric flight.
Finally, we came to the part I was looking forward to: my
first electric flight. I did a few runway hops before going
up to 3,000 feet over Camarillo. The e430 flew much like
a sailplane, which isn’t surprising. It has docile handling
characteristics, great visibility, a quiet ride, and hardly
any vibration—and then only when the prop is turning.
The endurance on my first flight disappointed me
though. After only 40 minutes, I began running out of
batteries. As it turned out, most of that was my doing.
Tian gently explained that I’d flown too fast. He had
calculated that I should only need 7 kW (kilowatts)
to maintain level flight, but I used almost twice that.
After a few more flights spent comparing my airspeed
to my GPS groundspeed—and after we installed a
new static system, which models don’t need—I flew
level flight at 7. 5 k W. By learning how to manage my
kilowatts, I flew several times for more than 1. 5 hours,
Yuneec plans to certify the e430 in Germany, which currently recognizes electric
flight, and then seek LSA approval in the U.S. once the ASTM standards for LSA
include electric motors.
The digital panel of the e430. Instead of a
fuel gauge, you’ll have a battery monitor
just like on a laptop computer.