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Electric airplanes: a new ‘golden era’ of air travel?

Electric airplanes

Image: International Business Times

Electric airplanes could be flying in the 2020s

Technological advancements never seem to stop when it comes to aviation, and this week brought the news of the next potential development – electric airplanes. Predicted to cut costs for airlines and passengers, as well as journey times and (of course) environmental damage, electric airplanes could be taking the skies by next decade.

The announcement came from Zunum Aero – a three-year-old start-up company based in Kirkland, Washington – which claims to have the answer to the unsavory costs and impact of passenger air travel. The company is developing a hybrid electric plane, with a rechargeable battery stored in the wings, designed for short-haul flights.

Zunum Aero hopes to be flying electric airplanes seating ten passengers for distances of up to 700 miles by the 2020s, and planes for up to 50 passengers with a range of 1000 miles by 2030.

This could be a ground-breaking advancement in aviation. And Zunum Aero isn’t acting alone – it’s got the backing of JetBlue Technology Ventures and aviation giant Boeing too.

So what impact could electric planes have? Well, according to Zunum Aero:

  • A 40-80% reduction in costs for airlines (which will be passed on to passengers)
  • A 40% reduction in travel times
  • An 80% drop in emissions (which could extend to 100% depending on future battery development).

So why the decline in costs? Surely this research and development is going to be expensive, right?

Well, it’s actually down to the fact that Zunum Aero’s electric airplanes will primarily be designed to serve regional areas, and can be flown in and out of smaller airports. This cuts costs for passengers, who would otherwise be subjected to the higher landing costs of hub airports. They could also look forward to reduced queueing times and shorter flight times (without the need to travel to large hub airports).

With some smaller regional airports facing potential closure, electric airplanes could keep them open – continuing to provide a service for passengers in those areas. The electric airplane has even been described as a ‘bus service for the sky’ – where passengers hop on and off on more remote flight routes, which currently generate high ticket prices.

Zunum Aero hopes to have its first prototype ready in two years, so we could be seeing “Tesla for the air” (as the president of JetBlue Technology Ventures described it) before this decade’s out.

And it’s not the only company to be trying out greener aviation technology. In 2015, Airbus hit the headlines when it flew its electric E-Fan demonstrator model across the English Channel.

So will the electric airplane revolutionize air travel? Well, for the moment, probably not. The technology is still nowhere near ready to extend to long-haul flights (that’ll take some battery!), but there’s no doubt the prospect of short-haul electric airplanes will make waves in aviation.

One thing’s for sure – whoever’s flying those electric airplanes will still need a pilot’s license, so if you want to be flying the world’s most advanced aircraft, you need to train first! Get in touch today to find out more about getting certified with us.

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