The UK’s RAF is conducting a test flight program to see if electric aircraft can be used in pilot training.
The program, which began in December 2021 is using the two-seater pilot training aircraft the Velis Electro. It aims to help the Royal Air Force (RAF) assess the technology of electric aircraft and determine if they can be used effectively to train pilots.
The program will also explore the implications of electric aircraft on airfield operations on the ground and while flying, logistics support and infrastructure, as well as consider safety implications.
The flight tests are being delivered by Affinity, a joint venture (JV) company set up by Israeli aerospace and defence company Elbit Systems and USA-headquartered engineering firm KBR.
Flight and safety assurances were developed during the summer of 2021 by Affinity in partnership with the UK Civil Aviation Authority.
The so-called pathfinder program conducted flights during December 2021 and January 2022 from Damyns Hall Aerodrome, Essex.
A second phase of flight testing commenced in March and saw the Velis Electro aircraft join Affinity’s existing fleet at RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire, where up to twenty additional pilots are to fly the battery-powered aircraft.
A final set of flight trials will demonstrate the aircraft to senior government officials and observers.
Martin Fausset, CEO of Elbit Systems UK said, “The concept of zero-emissions aircraft being used by the RAF has always been considered hypothetical and we are proud to have proposed and delivered initial capability for this pathfinder.”
Andrew Barrie, president of KBR Government Solutions EMEA said, “The project builds on KBR’s proud history of pioneering new technologies and aligns with our vision to deliver solutions that help customers accomplish their most critical objectives in a safer and more sustainable way.”
The Affinity JV has been providing flying training programs to the military in the UK since 2016, helping to procure nearly 50 aircraft and supporting over 100 staff across three RAF bases.
Velis Electro was the first all-electric aircraft to be certified by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, in June 2020 and is made by Slovenia-based Pipistrel. Last month US aircraft manufacturer Textron announced it is to by Pipistrel.