SunFlyer Electric Trainer Pitched as Pilot-shortage Solution

 - July 25, 2018, 6:36 AM

Bye Aerospace president George Bye sees electric aircraft, such as his company's SunFlyer 2, as the solution to the looming pilot shortage. “We have a whole new generation of pilots we need to get through pilot training and into careers in aviation. Absent that, the entire transportation system we take for granted is at risk. The number-one objection for students entering pilot training is cost," he said.

"We address cost by hundreds of percentage points. We are one-sixth the cost to fly. The revolution from conventional to electric has begun. We need a business tool, a training tool, for our flight schools,” he added. “The difference in cost is so significant. Electric is disruptive to a market.”

On Tuesday at EAA AirVenture, Bye announced another large order for the SunFlyer 2 all-electric, carbon-fiber, $289,000, two-place trainer, this one for 30 aircraft from the Aspen Flying Club. The deal brings the total announced orders for the SunFlyer 2 to 130 aircraft to date.

Bye said his company has applied for an FAA type certificate for the SunFlyer 2, that the proof-of-concept aircraft made its first flight April 10 at Denver Centennial Airport, and that it is currently being outfitted with its Siemens' 90-w production electric motor and should fly with that powerplant within six weeks.

He also revealed the design for the conformal 1,900-pound SunFlyer 2, which features a wider cabin and longer wingspan and additional battery packs, giving it a 3.5-hour endurance with VFR reserves and a top speed of 138 knots. He said plans call for the aircraft to be certified under the new FAA Part 23 Subpart 1, with the Siemens motor and the EP Systems battery pack Technical Standard Order (TSO) approved.

The motor is expected to last 10,000 hours, “longer than the airplane,” he said, and the battery pack up to 1,500 cycles. Battery pack charging time should be 15 to 20 minutes with a “supercharger.” 

The company is continuing with plans for the larger SunFlyer 4—a four-seat, 2,700 pound, all-electric aircraft. SunFlyer 4, he said, has applications for the charter and package delivery markets without all the expense and complications of the much-hyped electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft when operating in airport-dense environments such as Southern California. Bye said the $389,000 SunFlyer 4 will have direct operating costs of just $19.80 per hour.