Winnipeg pilot proposes electric aviation project

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The Manitoba Ninety-Nines could soon be demonstrating the world’s first type-certified electric airplane at Lyncrest Airport in the R.M of Springfield.

Jill Oakes, a professor in the department of environment and geography at the University of Manitoba, and Paul Parker, a professor in geography and environment management at the University of Waterloo, have proposed the Electric Aviation Solutions to Decarbonize Canadian Skies Project to the Climate Action and Awareness Fund of Environment and Climate Change Canada. They hope to hear in August whether they are successful.

Their proposal involves buying two Pipistrel Velis Electro planes and holding demonstration events at airports across the country. The fund would cover 50 per cent of the cost, while local fundraising would cover the other 50 per cent.

Demonstrations would likely begin in 2022, at Lyncrest Airport in Winnipeg, and Waterloo Region International Airport in Waterloo, Ont. Pending approval from Transport Canada, further plans could include training student pilots and offering at least 10 flight hours in electric aviation.

The Manitoba Electric Vehicle Association (MEVA), which sent a letter of support for the project, hopes to bolster the flight demonstrations by including them in wide-ranging events featuring a variety of vehicles and electric car rides.

At the June 24 MEVA meeting, held remotely on Zoom, Oakes , who is a director of the Manitoba Ninety-Nines, an all-woman aviation organization, said she’s excited to give the women pilots the role of electric aviation trendsetters.

"We have 50 women that are pilots, carriers, maintenance people, some are in training. The guys are extremely excited. They want to learn from the gals. Morden Airport is excited. Lyncrest is excited and keen to learn from the gals how to fly this airplane," Oakes said.

Parker gave a presentation on the capability of the Velis Electro, the state of electric aviation, and the interest of pilot trainees in going electric.

The Pipistrel Velis Electro became the world’s first all-electric airplane to be type-certified by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), in June 2020.

Currently, electric aviation technology is growing, with eight- and nine-passenger planes, the Bye eFlyer 800, and the Eviation Alice Luxury Aircraft, projected to enter the global market by 2024.
When Parker surveyed pilot trainees, he found that "our students are overwhelmingly enthusiastic about electric aviation. Strongest reason? It stops the emissions. They want to fly, but they don’t want to destroy the planet."

For Parker, electric flying is "... simpler. I’d rather not have flammable liquid next to me. Batteries can have problems, too, but the Pipistrel’s batteries are doubled to prevent more of these situations, or designed to crash without having a fire problem."

Once Oakes and Parker get the funding approved, they will ask Transport Canada to allow student pilots to use the Velis Electro as a training plane. Currently, Transport Canada is still deciding whether to categorize the plane in the advanced ultra-light aeroplane category or in the normal category under Canadian Aviation Regulations.