Electric Plane Sets Australia’s Firsts for Quiet, Cheap, Fast, Long-Haul Travel



Aviation pioneer Charles Kingsford Smith flew small settlements on the Eyre Peninsula nearly 90 years ago, and this week a small plane dubbed Bobby became a modern pioneer by making historic landings in airplanes. similar distant outposts.

The Pipistrel Alpha Electro, nicknamed “Bobby”, is Australia’s only certified commercial electric aircraft.

Eyre to There Aviation owner Barrie Rogers bought it in February 2020 from a company in Western Australia that had planned trips to Rottnest Island but found the distance was too great for its battery capabilities.

As with electric cars, the aircraft must be recharged regularly.

Barrie Rogers plugs in to charge the electric plane in Ungarra.(

ABC Eyre Peninsula: Jodie Hamilton


But now Bobby’s South Australian owners have set a world distance endurance record covering around 1,400 kilometers, eclipsing the previous 750 km record set in Germany last year.

Logistics for the record attempt included two support vehicles and two support aircraft to help reload Bobby and locate airstrips every 35 to 45 minutes.

“We always learn more about the plane on a trip like this. We seem to last an average of 40 to 45 minutes, but we were able to land in places with a lot of battery for a margin of safety,” he said. said Mr. mentioned.

“We use a three-phase outlet in the hanger, and if we’re really off-site – which we’ve been the last few days – we plug it into the generator system and a recharge takes about 45 minutes to an hour. “

A woman at the controls of an airplane.
Pilot Catherine Conway is one of two certified pilots.(

ABC Eyre Peninsula: Jodie Hamilton


Mr Rogers said one of the results of the record attempt will be to research locations for future charging points for electric planes.

Outback landings

He said the distance between major airports meant there were unusual stopovers.

“We landed at Corunna and Nonning stations, basically behind Iron Knob to the northwest,” Rogers said.

Aerial photo of two planes on a red dirt airstrip, with a car and a trailer beside them, three cars on a dirt road nearby.
The team’s first remote recharge took place at Corunna Station, near Iron Knob. (

Provided: George Seppelt


“We’re not pioneers like the good old days when they didn’t have an airstrip and someone forged one in the bush, but it’s a challenge.

Green wheat harvest in the foreground, two planes, cars, school bus in the distant background
Bobby landed in a newly sown wheat crop in Ungarra on the Eyre Peninsula, ready to be reloaded.(

ABC Eyre Peninsula: Jodie Hamilton


He said the plane was small but mighty.

“It has a very small electric motor and it’s powered by two batteries. They produce around 200 volts,†Mr. Rogers said.

“Your car’s battery is 12 volts, so that’s a lot of power – it’s about 58 kilowatts of power going to the plane, so it’s a pretty powerful little plane.”

People watching the plane, two men in the foreground left and right looking at each otehr, childrne in the background looking through p
Ungarra school kids and their parents had fun watching Bobby the Electric Plane as it pulled up to recharge on Modra’s property.(

ABC Eyre Peninsula: Jodie Hamilton


Mr Rogers said he was excited about the future of electric planes because they were quieter than conventional planes, cheaper to operate and had superior acceleration.

“Really, there is no waiting time like in a gasoline engine to pick up speed, it’s basically all the way up front and it will climb to 12,000 to 15,000 feet per minute, so it ‘s very, very fast, “Rogers said.

Future planes

He said that globally, around 400 companies are studying electric propulsion flying prototypes and other propulsion variants.

“From a general point of view, it may be a few years before we start seeing commuter planes from here. [Port Lincoln] in Adelaide being electric, but it happens, â€Mr. Rogers said.

He said one of the highlights of the trip was showing Bobby to Ungarra students on the Eyre Peninsula, where they landed on a strip in a grain crop.

Backs of schoolchildren in blue uniforms heads, man talking to them, small plane in background
Barrie Rogers talks to students at Ungarra Elementary School about electric airplane technology.(

ABC Eyre Peninsula: Jodie Hamilton


Mr Rogers said they had received an excellent landing among the large commercial planes at Adelaide Airport, especially from the air traffic controllers who were used to much larger planes.

World records have yet to be verified, but they include the longest duration, the longest distance on the water, and the fastest speed by an electric plane.



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