Record electric flight stops by Eyre Peninsula

FLIGHT: Barrie Rogers with his Pipistrel Alpha Electro aircraft during his stopover at Port Lincoln Airport. Photo: Jarrad Delaney
FLIGHT: Barrie Rogers with his Pipistrel Alpha Electro aircraft during his stopover at Port Lincoln Airport. Photo: Jarrad Delaney

A former Eyre Peninsula airport manager is helping to make his own mark in aviation with a record setting flight in an electronic-powered aircraft, making a stop in the region this week.

Eyre to There Aviation managing director Barrie Rogers is flying his Pipistrel Alpha Electro aircraft, the only electric aircraft currently in Australia, in an effort to set a new record setting flight of 600 nautical miles.

The flight is sponsored by AvPlan EFB with pilots David Bradshaw and Cath Conway also involved, with a support aircraft flying alongside with a 75kg charger.

Starting at Parafield Airport on June 19, the plane made its way to locations including Balaklava, Snowtown and Port Pirie, recharging along the way, making its way to the Eyre Peninsula, stopping at Port Lincoln on Monday.

Mr Rogers said this was an attempt to break a record set in Europe last year for the longest distance flown by an electric plane, with stops for recharging, about 435 nautical miles.

He said it was also a chance to showcase across the state the technology of electric-powered flight.

"Certainly (it's a chance to) show it off as well and let people know that electric aircraft are coming and they are viable," he said.

"Logistically speaking there is no aircraft recharging infrastructure at any airport in the country at the moment and certainly one of the outcomes of this particular trip will be to identify likely locations and advise our government on the possibility of infrastructure upgrades at airports such as Port Lincoln and Whyalla."

Mr Rogers said although unverified at this time two records had already been set during this flight, one for the longest flight over water (32km) with Mr Bradshaw between Port Pirie and Whyalla and fastest speed for this class of aircraft (177km/h) with Ms Conway.

He said the plane had required stops about every 45 minutes and with help from AvPlan software they had found landing areas including farm strips, including stops at Nonning and Carunna stations near Iron Knob.

Mr Bradshaw said he had been flying this aircraft for about a year and in terms of flying properties it was no different to a petrol-powered version of the same aircraft.

He said he was relishing the opportunity to be a part of this significant flight.

"It really does feel like we're pioneering to some extent, pioneering electric flight in a cross-country endeavour," he said.

"Not a lot is known about the performance of electric airplanes so we're writing the book on it."

During their journey down the Eyre Peninsula the plane made a stopover at Ungarra on Monday, with students from nearby Ungarra Primary School coming out to Modra's Airstrip to get a closer look.

Principal Karl Robst said the students enjoyed getting a close look at the aircraft, and staff member Kelly Robinson had the chance to get a view of the area from the air.

"I thought it was a great opportunity to be a part of possible history in the making and hope the project gets 'off the ground' with this technology," he said.

Mr Rogers said this aircraft would be ideal for flight training, suited for the first 15-20 hours of training for a student in the airport precinct, being less than half the cost per hour of a conventional plane of this size.

A former airport manager at Port Lincoln Airport for many years, Mr Rogers said he was happy to be back on Eyre Peninsula and to give locals a look at this technology.

"It's really great to basically come back and contribute, I feel to the future of some of these smaller airports by way of flight training in a different way, in a quieter way," he said.

Mr Rogers thanked sponsors West Coast Bitumen, Recreational Aviation Aus and Aerometrex.

The flight planned to arrive at Adelaide Airport in the next few days.

Want to have the biggest headlines sent your way each week? Sign up today for the weekly Port Lincoln Times newsletter here.