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B.C. pilot completes first paid flight in an electric aircraft in Canada

The Velis Electro runs on two 200-pound batteries that supply enough energy for nearly 50 minutes of flying time. (CTV News) The Velis Electro runs on two 200-pound batteries that supply enough energy for nearly 50 minutes of flying time. (CTV News)
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A small flight school on Vancouver Island has completed Canada’s first paid flight in an electric aircraft.

The plane, owned by Sealand Flight, took off Friday from the Campbell River airport with an instructor and student onboard. The student paid $20 for the honour, and got to take a turn at the controls high above the city.

The plane, a Pipistrel Velis Electro, was developed in Europe and cost Sealand about a quarter of a million dollars.

"It became the first-ever certified electric aircraft under European certification," Sealand pilot Mike Andrews told CTV news. "What we’re doing is trying to adopt that certification into Canada, and we’ve been given special permission to operate it in the meantime."

The plane was developed in Europe and cost Sealand about a quarter of a million dollars. (CTV News)

Sealand is able to offer paid flight instruction aboard the plane as part of a trial program with Transport Canada.

The Velis Electro runs on two 200-pound batteries that supply enough energy for nearly 50 minutes of flying time, perfect for a flight school that takes students up for short hops over the city.

"We don’t need to use a plane that’s burning gas. They burn $80 an hour for a Cessna 172 and a Beaver burns a lot more than that," said Sealand’s chief flying instructor, Ian Lamont. "The price for electricity for a 45 minute flight is under $2," he added.

The lifespan on the battery packs is 500 hours before they must be replaced.

"The battery technology today is already improved from the battery packs we’ve purchased here, so we know when this one is done in 500 hours, we’ll have more range with the second set," said Lamont.

The lifespan on the battery packs is 500 hours before they must be replaced. (CTV News)

Pilots say the plane behaves much like its gas-powered counterparts in the air, with a few notable advantages. "It’s much quieter, there are no emissions, and long-term we hope they’re cheaper to operate," Andrews said.

A future where electric flights in Canada are operating on a larger scale is still limited by technology. Flying time in the Velis Electro is limited to under an hour and the two people onboard cannot weigh more than about 400 pounds combined. Once plugged in, the plane takes nearly an hour to charge.

The professionals at Sealand say piloting the Velis Electro is also fun.

"Oh yeah, it’s a blast," added Andrews. 

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