Airbus’ E-Fan technology demonstrator has become the world’s first all-electric twin-engine aircraft to successfully cross the English Channel, some 106 years after Louis Blériot’s epic flight.
The potential of electric aviation
At 11am on a calm, sunny summer morning, the Airbus E-Fan touched down in Calais to enter its name in the record books. The all-electric plane became the first twin-engine electric plane to negotiate the English Channel, more than 100 years after Louis Blériot had first made the intrepid journey.
Travelling in the opposite direction to the pioneering Frenchman and powered by lithium-ion batteries, the E-Fan took off from Lydd on the English south coast, completing the 74 kilometre flight east to Calais, France, in around 40 minutes. Flown by test pilot Didier Esteyne, the all-electric plane weighs around 600 kilogrammes and travelled at an altitude of about 1000 metres (3500 feet).
Follow E-Fan’s flight live!
Take-off is scheduled for 10 July, 10:15am CET (09:15am local time in the UK). We’ll be bringing you a live stream of the E-Fan’s flight, as well as interviews with engineers and project partners in Calais to offer fascinating expert insights into the technology behind this all-electric plane.
You can be a part of this historic event and become the pilot of a socially-powered E-Fan, which will 'take flight' virtually alongside the real aircraft. Visit wemakeitfly.airbusgroup.com to help charge the E-Fan’s batteries by shaking your mobile device or clicking on your mouse from your desktop. Charge the battery daily to gain access to new information and tweet using the hashtag #wemakeitfly. On the day of the flight, you'll see your tweet appear as you pilot the social E-Fan!
What you need to know
- Route: Lydd to Calais
- Take-off: Morning of 10 July, approximately 10:15am CET
- Live stream: wemakeitfly.airbusgroup.com
- Flight time: approximately 45 minutes
The E-Fan project, and flights like the Channel crossing, show that the pioneering spirit and ingenuity demonstrated by Louis Blériot and the other early aviators is still alive today.
While the E-Fan’s journey will demonstrate the possibilities of electric propulsion for future aircraft, it is also an homage to Louis Blériot, one of the all-time greats of aviation.
In 1909, the English Channel had already been crossed by balloon, but just six years after the Wright brothers’ first flight few people expected someone to make the trip by plane. Indeed, the Daily Mail newspaper offered £1,000 prize to the first person to make the 37 km. crossing.
A passionate inventor and engineer, Blériot believed his Blériot XI monoplane was up to the task. On the morning of 25 July, the Frenchman set out from Calais, flying at 70 km./h, 70 metres above the water.
Like so many others in aviation industry Louis Blériot has been a hero and inspiration to me and it gives me great pride that I am able to honour his legacy with the first ever electric-powered Channel crossing.
Blériot overcame poor visibility and gusting winds to land close to Dover Castle. Almost overnight, Blériot was a star and his record-breaking aircraft became the first to enter mass production, launching the French aviation industry. His company was based in Suresnes, near Paris, at the same site where part of the E-Fan team is now located.
Since its first flight in April 2014, the E-Fan team has constantly been working to improve the technology on-board. At the 2015 Paris Air Show in June, Airbus highlighted the continuous enhancements made to E-Fan in just over a year and a half, which have resulted in increased battery capacity, reduced weight and a new retractable landing gear.
These are highly valuable stepping stones on Airbus’s path towards electrical aviation, which would drastically reduce noise pollution and emissions. The company is already working on the E-Fan 2.0, an electric two-seater aimed at pilot training, which will be followed by the E-Fan 4.0 four-seat airplane for full pilot licensing and the general aviation market. Construction on a final assembly line to industrialise these aircraft will begin during 2016 in Pau, France.