The “Electric Cessna” What is Happening?

By Norm Goyer

The Beyond Electric folks in Colorado have been testing an electric 172 for two years. flight tests are very positive.

The Beyond Electric folks in Colorado have been testing an electric 172 for two years. flight tests are very positive.

I would like to thank the EAA and Sonex for help in illustrating this article. NG

One of the most asked questions in aviation concerns what is referred to as the Electric Cessna. In 2010 Bye Engineering started a program of testing a stock Cessna 172 which they stripped of fuel tanks and the engine and then converted the airframe to electric powered. At the time Cessna appeared to be cooperating with the Bye engineers. The following years Bye moved to Colorado and changed the name of the company to Beyond Engineering to continue their testing. In my opinion this is a very important project and many people have been following it. Unfortunately there is a huge number of pilots who don’t want to change the status quo, that is reciprocating power to electric. The back lash is heavy. Critics claim it is all about the upcoming problem with the availability of 100 LL gasoline. As of today this problem has not been solved. There have been a number of companies who claim that their formula will work, but so far no major fuel producer has weighed into the controversy. Saying your formula will work is a lot different than producing it in large quantities.

I love to insert my opinions into these controversies to see what reaction I receive, if any. I personally believe there will be only three viable power sources in aviation. Rockets will remain the property of the space program while turbine power and electric power will take over all of general aviation. There are now turbines both pure jet and prop jets of all sizes avail in numbers and in quantity and quality.  Once again the RC model industry has been working overtime producing turbines that duplicate anything that is currently in use. Several homebuilders have powered their creations with these miniature marvels. Jetman uses four of them to blast through the sky while the smallest twin engine plane the Cri Cri (Crickett) has been flying with two RC turbines for several years now. Turbines are the power choice to power midsize business aircraft to airliners. Turbines are very similar to electric motors in the way they are constructed. They both have a main shaft supported by roller and ball bearings. The turbine uses heat produced by burning kerosene while the electric motor uses magnets to advance the shaft from segment to segment. Here the two part company. Turbines are a done deal with the exception of their high cost. With competition  the price will come down.

The area from the firewall forward has been redesigned to hold the needed electric power units.

The area from the firewall forward has been redesigned to hold the needed electric power units.

For smaller aircraft up to a Cessna 182 or Piper Warrior size the best power source for the future could be the electric motor. Again the RC industry is way ahead of any other industry using small electric motors for propulsion. A few years ago Monnet installed an electric motor in one of their Sonex homebuilts and have been flying it ever since. This was simply an enlarged model airplane motor, ESC (electronic speed control) and a large number of Li-Ion (LiFe) cells wired into large batteries. The electric Cessna waded into the mix two years ago and received a huge press coverage.

Dateline Denver: July 22, 2011

Bye Energy, a clean energy solutions integrator for general aviation, today announced it will accelerate the development process and focus on its Green Flight Program under the name Beyond Aviation. The Green Flight Program is a collaborative effort to develop an electric propulsion system for a Cessna 172 airplane.

Richard F. Schaden, Chairman of the Board of Beyond Aviation, said he is pleased that the Green Flight Program is part of Beyond Aviation’s efforts. “We look forward to bringing appropriate resources to the program to ensure its success,” he said.

Energy systems displays, including battery unit “state-of-charge” and range displays similar to advanced electric ground vehicles, are in consideration for the electric Cessna 172.

All electric motor powered vehicles have similar components and wiring diagrams. This is a typical one.

All electric motor powered vehicles have similar components and wiring diagrams. This is a typical one.

Beyond Aviation will be led by President Charlie Johnson, who has over 40 years of aviation and aerospace leadership experience, including President and Chief Operating Officer of Cessna from 1997 to 2003. Administrative and operational teams at Beyond Aviation are devoting their full attention to the success of the program.

Beyond Aviation is headquartered in Englewood, Colo., with an additional facility at Rocky Mountain Metro Airport in Broomfield, Colo. Beyond has not released any more news of any significance  since this  came out.

Electric Cessna begins climb testing at Centennial Airport January 10, 2012

After a stepwise test program the Electric Cessna climbed up and off the runway today beginning the next phase of flight testing. Utilizing the 10,000ft runway at Centennial the Cessna was able to climb up and out of ground effect gathering rate of climb data, efficiency data, and actual flight characteristics. The system performed better than expected eliciting excitement from the team and an eagerness to see just how well the electric propulsion system can do. The test program will progress to meet all engineering requirements before moving forward to the pattern flight.

In my  opinion this program is progressing too slowly. The FAA has already granted the 172 an airworthiness certificate. The plane does not need any flying tests.  The electric motor and its systems are all running perfectly. Why not open the ESC (throttle) and go flying

 

 

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