Estimated reading time 14 minutes, 4 seconds.
The world’s first electric race plane has been unveiled on day one at the Dubai Airshow, showcasing custom modified technology built by one of the racing teams set to take part in the inaugural Air Race E event next year.
Air Race E, a pioneering electric air racing series headed by international air racing promoter Jeff Zaltman, made history when it revealed the plane on display at the airshow, in association with the series’ official founding partner, Airbus.
“This is a pivotal moment not only for Air Race E, but for the aviation industry as a whole. Our aim by establishing an electric racing series is to develop a unifying platform for the development of cleaner, faster and more technologically advanced electric aircraft. The racing series will provide a testbed for innovation and accelerate the journey towards electric commercial travel. We’ve now shown it is possible and are on track to again create history when planes like the one on display at the Dubai Airshow take to the skies for the race next year,” said Air Race E CEO and founder Jeff Zaltman.
The E-Racer Model is the first ever example of an electric race plane, built by Team Condor in their Yorkshire-based workshop in the North of England using a highly-modified Cassutt aircraft with a rich history in formula air racing dating back to 1979.
The custom Cassutt racer named White Lightning was once a regular on the formula one racing circuit in Europe throughout the 80’s and 90’s, with owner and pilot Andrew Chadwick earning a number of podium finishes to add to White Lightning’s racing pedigree. Chadwick has since donated the aircraft to Team Condor to compete in the upcoming Air Race E series.
Team Condor leader Martyn Wiseman and his crew have spent the past months converting White Lightning into a fully-electric racing machine, utilizing a Contra Electric twin motor and contra-rotating propeller power train.
The customized electric motor will enable the plane to race at speeds of around 300 mph (482.80 kph). During the races, the combined max continuous power will be set at 150 kW, according to the electric formula. Over 100 kg worth of lithium batteries installed under the fuselage of the plane will provide power for five minutes of high intensity racing and around 10 minutes of reserve flying at reduced power.
As official founding partner, Airbus providing teams, including Team Condor, with industry insight and research as they build and modify their racing aircraft.
The E-Racer model on display at the Dubai Airshow, nicknamed White Lightning, is one of two electric race planes nearest to completion, the other is being built at the University of Nottingham’s Aerospace Technology Centre in the U.K. as part of its £13 million propulsion futures beacons of excellence research program. Project lead Richard Glassock, a University of Nottingham engineering fellow, has also been instrumental in the development of White Lightning and expects to have his model in the air by early next year.
Air Race E will be a series of head-to-head international air races, showcasing the skills, expertise and ingenuity of the best pilots and engineers from around the world. Unlike similar racing events which operate on a time trial basis, Air Race E events will see eight planes fly simultaneously around a tight 5 km circuit at just 10 m above the ground and at speeds of up to 450 kph – faster than any land-based motorsport.
The eight teams are as follows:
Team Beta Technologies Racing (U.S.A.)
Team leader: Kyle Clark
Team Blue-BETA Racing, based in Vermont, U.S.A., is a partnership between propulsion and control system company BETA Technologies and, the advanced composites company, Blue Force Technologies, with Kyle Clark who’s the CEO and team leader of BETA.
Having already put an eVTOL in the air while also designing and building the world’s largest electric aircraft to have flown, Blue-BETA is now turning their attention to developing a plane for Air Race E.
Their plane, which is currently known as BB-23, will feature a battery system comprised of pouch-type lithium ion cells assembled into a pack with a custom battery management system, derived from their eVTOL program.
Team Outlaw (Canada)
Team leader: Scott Holmes
Team Outlaw is bringing experience from formula one air racing to the new electric sport of Air Race E. With pilot and team leader Scott Holmes in the cockpit, the Canadians are adapting their 1993 Cassutt to be able to fly with electric power.
Holmes has had his pilot’s licence since he was just 17-years-old and began racing at Reno and with Air Race 1 in 2016, competing at the World Cup in Thailand and the China Cup in Wuhan.
Based at Villeneuve Airport in Edmonton, Scott has a close-knit team backing him on the project to turn his plane ‘Outlaw’, so named because it doesn’t follow many of the airworthiness standards in Canada, into an electric air racer.
His crew includes; Bob Holmes, Kelly Green, Michelle Holmes, Eldon Gjesdal, Brian Murray and Karen Holmes. His development engineers are Roslynn Ricard, Seth Itow, Eric Tischer and Thomas Lockwood.
Having designed, built and modified racing airplanes for many years, Air Race E is business as usual for Team Outlaw, who have support from Precizion Services, Energy Efficient Homes, Arkk Engineering and ViScan Inspection Services.
Team Scramasaxe (France)
Team leader: Eric de Barberin-Barberini
Based at Aérodrome de Cuers-Pierrefeu in the south east of France, Team Scramasaxe is led by Eric de Barberin-Barberini, a former fighter pilot who has set five aviation world speed records in his aircraft, Shark.
Team Scramasaxe, named after a short sword used in the early French Middle ages, is looking forward to the challenge of electric air racing, mixing new technology, speed and competition.
During the development phase, de Barberin-Barberini is working alongside fellow team members Didier Ledoux, Frederic Maunier and Henri Giordano to build a plane which is derived from his award-winning Shark Ultra Light.
Currently named ‘Scramasaxe E project’ in prototype, modifications include a tricycle landing gear incorporating a retractable front wheel, while the air foil will be modified to sustain speeds as high as 500 kph.
Team Möbius (U.S.A.)
Team leader: Carl Copeland
Team Möbius, based in Fort Worth, Texas, is led by Carl Copeland, a serial entrepreneur and CEO of MuZ Motion whose company produces custom, high-performance motion solutions for the robotics market.
With a life-long passion for aviation and aerospace, Copeland recognized a significant opportunity to bring his knowledge and expertise to Air Race E, linking up with fellow aviation enthusiast and pilot, Christopher Williams.
Initially for the first year of Air Race E, Möbius — named after the möbius strip infinity loop — plans to modify an existing formula one racer to use with their electric power system.
Their plane is still in the very early stages of development and has yet to be given a name, but the intention is to use a new type of electric motor, designed by MuZ Motion, that is smaller and lighter than current electric motors.
In the future, Möbius hopes to introduce a more customized aircraft with innovative profiles, control mechanisms and advanced propeller designs.
Team Hangar-1 (Germany)
Team leader: Adrian Schmer
Based at facilities in Oldenburg-Hatten and Leer-Papenburg in northern Germany, Team Hanger-1, named in conjunction with their main sponsor Flugwerft Hangar-1 GmbH, is led by the company’s CEO Adrian Schmer, SEP and aerobatics instructor.
Schmer’s team working on the developments of their plane, Eline Tjaden, Chris Höland, Jakob Møller and Ingo Seidl, are self-confessed aviation junkies excited by the challenge of Air Race E.
They have a concept for their aircraft and are currently looking at the options of modifying a Cassutt IIIM or Sonerai I Formula Vee plane, integrating an electric engine made by Geiger Engineering, to become their eventual racer. It will be called ‘Skyflash One’, named after their aerobatic flight school ‘Skycrobatics’.
The ‘Hangar-1 Crew’, as they are affectionately known, are also working on their business plan to look for technical partners for the team.
Team AllWays Air Racing (U.S.A.)
Team leader: Casey Erickson
Team AllWays Air Racing is based in California, U.S.A., and has pilot and captain Casey Erickson at the helm. She is a certified flight instructor and has flown many different types of aircraft, including commercial fixed wing, helicopter and sUAS aircraft, and also has a private glider rating.
Having piloted in aerobatics competitions, she was side-lined by a back injury, so in 2008 started racing in the biplane class at Reno. Erickson also owns a formula one air race plane.
After talking to a number of different aircraft designers, Casey and her team decided to work on a derivative of the Snoshoo, an American home-built formula one racer designed by Alan VanMeter and AJ Smith. The AllWays Air Racing Snoshoo SR1.1 will be named ‘The Gulf Oil Racer’ and is being developed at Redlands Airport, near San Bernadino.
Erickson is being supported by a team that includes AJ Smith, who built the airframe and carbon fibre shell, Craig Catto, who built the tail group and prop, and Grove Aircraft, who built the landing gear and braking system. Bobbi Graham and Jason Cowls will also be involved.
The team is still in the initial assembly phase and plans to have a completed aircraft to begin engine runs in early spring 2020.
Team NL (Netherlands)
Team lead: Rick Boerma
When Dutchman Rick Boerma heard about Air Race E and their exciting project, his first option was to launch his own team. So, along with a group of engineering graduates, Team NL is building a new aircraft for the race, completely from scratch.
Boerma, a life-long aviation fanatic, started flying gliders at the age of 14 and, while studying aerospace engineering at university, began to dream of designing and building his own aircraft.
Now, that dream is turning into a reality, development has begun of the as yet unnamed plane, which has adopted the moniker ‘Fanta’ due to its orange colour. The aircraft will feature a conventional low-wing design with two electric motors that power two contra-rotating propellers.
Team Condor Racing (U.K.)
Team leader: Martyn Wiseman
Wiseman, managing director of Condor Aviation International, is the leader of Team Condor, based in Barlby, North Yorkshire, England.
Born and raised in Zambia, Wiseman has been involved in aviation for over 20 years, initially as a hobby and, more recently, as a professional operation. His company specialises in R-and-D and aircraft modification and will use Air Race E as a platform to showcase their skills, as they help to develop green aviation technology.
For their electric air racer, Team Condor has used an existing airframe, completely revamping the engine cowling to incorporate items such as a contra-rotating propeller system, electric motors, inverters and radiators.
At their team headquarters, where they have their own airfield with a 600 metre runway, their attention is currently focused on the battery technology and how they can integrate this into the aircraft.
Wiseman has a strong group supporting the developments of White Lightning, with principal engineer Dean Speight; senior design engineer Oliver Riddle being helped by Charlotte Jennings; assistant design engineer and Benas Laurinavicius, undergraduate engineer.
They have also had input from local work placement students and apprentices, who have provided an invaluable contribution to the project, while sponsorship backing comes from Potenza Ltd, Contra Electric Propulsion and Teesside University.
A tender for the first host city is underway, with the successful bid to be announced in due course. Air Race E remains open for parties to register their interest in entering or sponsoring a team or hosting a future race.