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April 14, 2024
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The FAA has granted a light-sport aircraft airworthiness exemption to Pipistrel’s two-seat, high-wing Velis Electro. This allows U.S. flight schools to operate this electrically-powered aircraft for flight training. The Pipistrel Velis Electro is the world’s first commercially available, type-certified electric aircraft.

This decision is a significant shift for commercial aviation. Sustainable aviation took a small step forward: an electrically powered aircraft offers a cost-effective and environmentally friendly option for pilot training. Since electric motors only a few moving parts, and operating cost a fraction of fossil fueled engines, it will interesting to see if flight schools pass on these savings to students.  If they do, flight schools could see a boost in student applications.

The move aligns with Textron’s strategic focus on the electric aviation market following its acquisition of Pipistrel in 2022. It also underscores what a great move Textron made in acquiring Pipistrel.

The Velis Electro offers quiet operations with zero carbon emissions. Its noise levels of 60 decibels and short endurance make it an ideal tool for pilot training.  Operating close to airports addresses flight training-driven noise pollution and environmental impact.  There are no apparent downsides to the FAA decision.

The bigger picture is the impact this decision has on general aviation. Last October, Textron announced the Velis Electro was selected as the United States Air Force’s Agility Prime program to explore operational and training uses of the aircraft. Pipistrel notes that the relief for a Petition for Exemption to 14 CFR Part 21.190 reflects the FAA’s commitment to safely integrating new technologies into the National Airspace System.

In several ways, this is the moment many have been eagerly waiting for: an FAA-approved electrically powered airplane on which aspiring pilots can learn.  The news is more significant than it appears at first glance. Now we wait to see which flight schools have the vision to deploy them and pass on the cost benefits to their student customers.

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Co-Founder AirInsight. My previous life includes stints at Shell South Africa, CIC Research, and PA Consulting. Got bitten by the aviation bug and ended up an Avgeek. Then the data bug got me, making me a curious Avgeek seeking data-driven logic. Also, I appreciate conversations with smart people from whom I learn so much. Summary: I am very fortunate to work with and converse with great people.

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