WELLINGTON, New Zealand (NWN) – As he made history by becoming the first person to fly over the Cook Strait in New Zealand in an electric plane, Gary Friedman thought it was only fitting that the first thing he did when he approached Wellington Beach See, that was the rotating blade of a wind turbine producing renewable energy.
Friedman’s 40-minute solo flight in the tiny two-seater comes 101 years after the first man to fly a conventional plane over the body of water that separates the South Pacific nation’s two main islands.
Monday’s flight was intended to draw attention to the possibilities of green flying and coincided with the opening of an important UN climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland.
Wellington International Airport officials believe it may be the longest distance an electric plane can fly over any stretch of water.
“It’s a very exciting day for the airport. A world-record-making day,” said spokeswoman Jenna Raeburn.
Friedman said the day started badly with rain at his departure point near the city of Blenheim. After a flight delay for 15 minutes, the weather cleared enough for takeoff and soon sunny conditions over the sea improved.
Friedman said he was overjoyed when he landed, and the technique worked better than he expected.
“We still had 40% left in the battery,” he said. “We could almost fly back again.”
Friedman, 49, who founded ElectricAir, said he has long been passionate about the environment and the idea came to him when he wondered about the incompatibility of driving an electric car and flying a gas-powered plane.
He traveled to Slovenia to purchase the Pipistrel Alpha Electro aircraft, and then jumped through various hoops with New Zealand’s aviation regulators to get the aircraft approved.
It weighs less than 400 kg (880 lb) and is significantly quieter than conventional aircraft. For a journey of 78 kilometers (48 mi), Friedman flew it at an altitude of only 1,000 feet (305 m) above sea level and a relatively slow speed of 130 kilometers per hour (81 mph) to maintain its charge. Can go
Friedman said it takes about an hour for the plane to be fully charged. The maximum flight time is also about an hour, and he mainly uses this for pilot training.
Airport spokeswoman Raeburn said Wellington International Airport is preparing for regular short-hop flights of new 12-seater electric aircraft that will start in about five years’ time.
Electric technology is not yet advanced enough to power large passenger planes, she said, but biofuels and hydrogen will provide greener alternatives in the future.