Pipistrel is hoping to export its electrically-powered Velis Electro light aircraft to the U.S. in larger numbers after the FAA implements new regulations that would allow it to be operated more easily there, the company announced yesterday at the Aero Friedrichshafen show in Germany. This move comes almost two years after it became the first manufacturer to certify an electric aircraft with EASA when the European regulator approved the Velis.
The FAA's new MOSAIC (modernization of special aIrworthiness certification) regulations would make it easier for light aircraft like the Velis Electro to fly in the U.S. without having to go through the burdensome Part 23 certification process. The Velis Electro does fly now in the U.S., but only under an experimental airworthiness certificate.
Shortly after being acquired by Textron earlier this month, Pipistrel signaled its intent to offer the Velis Electro in the U.S. flight training market. “For now, EASA and FAA certification, they don't match," said Pipistrel product manager Tadej Hozic, "but as I [understand], the FAA will issue [MOSAIC] rules for electric airplanes soon. And I think in a year, this aircraft will be available also in the U.S. under FAA rules,” he said.
The Velis Electro is powered by a 60-kW electric motor and 20-kW battery, he said, “which allows us to fly for one hour plus a legal reserve.” Battery charging from fully discharged takes about an hour. But typically after landing, the battery isn’t fully discharged, so after a debriefing, the Electro is ready for its next flight.
“This is a super aircraft for flight training, to do patterns [takeoffs and landings] practically,” said Hozic. “We all know that in some areas in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, it's not allowed to run engines during the weekend during certain hours. So this is a perfect airplane to do the training in combination with the Pipistrel Explorer, which is a Rotax-powered certified aircraft, to practically combine electric flight with the normal one for cross-country flying.”
Pipistrel is building 20 aircraft per month and brings a variety of capabilities to its new owners, from composite manufacturing to new urban air mobility programs and electric aircraft. “We are joining a big family, the Textron family,” Hozic said, “and I think this is a huge step for us. We will do a lot more now with also with their help and we will help them to achieve their goals.”