On Friday, March 24, 2017, the Extra 330LE gave another premiere performance by becoming the world’s first electric aircraft to tow a glider into the sky. The nearly silent aerotow piloted by Walter Extra took a type LS8-neo glider up to a height of 600 meters in only 76 seconds. “This aerotow provides further highly visible evidence of our record-setting motor’s performance capabilities,” said Frank Anton, head of eAircraft at the Siemens venture capital unit next47. “Just six such propulsion units would be sufficient to power a typical 19-seat hybrid-electric airplane.”
The new propulsion system from Siemens only recently completed its maiden flight, which took place in July 2016. In addition, the lightweight electric motor for aircraft already held a world record for power-to-weight ratio: weighing just 50 kilograms, it supplies a constant electric output of 260 kilowatts, which is five times more than comparable propulsion systems.
The Extra 330LE, which weighs about 1,000 kilograms, serves as the flying test bed for the new propulsion system. As an aerobatic plane, it is particularly well suited for taking the components to their stress limits and for testing and enhancing them. Currently, there are no plans for series production of this electric plane. Siemens is also contributing this technology to its joint project with Airbus in the area of electrically powered flight. In this connection, the two companies signed a collaboration agreement in April 2016. Electric propulsion systems are scalable, and Siemens and Airbus intend to develop hybrid-electric regional aircraft on the basis of this record-setting motor. “By 2030, we expect to see the first planes carrying up to 100 passengers and having a range of about 1,000 kilometers,” explained Anton. Siemens is determined to establish hybrid-electric propulsion systems for aircraft as a future area of business.
Top Image: World’s first aerotow with an electric plane: Friday, March 24, 2017 at the Dinslaken Schwarze Heide airfield in Germany – the Extra 330LE powered by the record-propulsion system from Siemens became the world’s first electric aircraft to tow a glider into the sky. The nearly silent aerotow piloted by Walter Extra took a type LS8-neo glider up to a height of 600 meters in only 76 seconds. (Copyright: Jean-Marie Urlacher)