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EAA Asks FAA to Authorize Electric Motors in Ultralights and Light-Sport Aircraft

Announcement at Electric Aircraft Symposium draws applause

Craig Willan
Craig Willan announces EAA's exemption request at the CAFE Foundation's 2008 Electric Aircraft Symposium. Photo credit: Larry Ford - CAFE Foundation

April 26, 2008 — In an effort to gain attention and support for electric aircraft innovation and to help advance efforts to bring affordable electric aircraft to recreational aviators, EAA at today's CAFE Foundation 2008 Electric Aircraft Symposium announced a significant advocacy measure. As the final speaker on the Symposium agenda, EAA Lifetime Member Craig Willan wrapped up the one-day event in San Francisco announcing that EAA this week filed a request to the FAA for regulatory exemptions that would allow the use of electric motors in ultralight and light-sport aircraft.

"The announcement drew enthusiastic applause," Willan reported shortly after the event's conclusion. "After a full day's in-depth exploration of the cutting-edge work being done, the group was already energized by the promising developments in the science and engineering arenas. When I announced at the end of the day EAA's action in the regulatory arena aimed at allowing the application of this technology, it was like an additional shot of adrenaline," he said.

"I also informed the group that this is only a first step. I'm participating on an EAA task force charged with further facilitating progress in the use of electric energy to power aircraft," he said. "The EAA community is committed to this direction. More announcements are coming."

EAA's petition to the FAA specifically proposes specifications for battery-pack weight limits on ultralight aircraft and the development and adoption of electric-motor ASTM standards for light-sport aircraft. "The request for those specifications, combined with suggested language changes to remove exclusive references to reciprocating engines, would make electric motors legal for these aircraft," said Earl Lawrence, EAA's vice president of industry and regulatory affairs.

The request for exemption highlights developments already made in the automotive, radio-controlled aircraft, and light-aircraft industries. "As electric technology advances, the practicality and, particularly, the flight range and duration of electric aircraft will drastically increase, while the weight of battery packs will decrease," the petition reads.

According to Lawrence, this initiative matches well with the EAA community's most fundamental values. "For 55 years we've championed affordability, access, and innovation in the world of aviation," he said. "Today, the cost of fuel, its composition, and the difficulty in ensuring the availability of aviation-appropriate fuel threaten both the affordability of and access to general aviation flying."

In making the announcement, Willan pointed to the EAA community's proven capacity for creativity as a call to action behind this initiative. After citing numerous examples of breakthroughs resulting from EAAers' passion for designing, building, and flying their own aircraft, he quoted Thomas Jefferson's words in the Declaration of Independence: "Those who have the ability to take action also have the responsibility to take action."

Willan added, "We have the responsibility to be part of the solution. We in the EAA family have the intellect, the drive, and the passion to do something that can change the world. We have the ability - now we must take the responsibility."

Note: To view EAA's Petition for Exemption, visit www.regulations.gov. In the "Search" field, type FAA-2008-0501 and click on "Go." Next, click on the Document ID link, FAA-2008-0501-0001. On the next screen, scroll to the bottom and click on the Microsoft Word attachment. Then, scroll back to the top and click on the Microsoft Word icon beside the word "Views."

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