Our Alpha Electros are late, but in production!!


Our Alpha Electros are late, but in production!!  When we ordered our Alpha Electros, the factory estimated they would be completed by the end of August and the first of September respectively and that we should receive them by mid-November.  However, that has not been the case.  We have been in contact with the factory through Michael Coates, their U.S. distributor, and the latest updates are that the aircraft are currently being completed at the factory, will be undergoing flight testing, and will be shipped for arrival around the first of January to mid-January.  Recently, Sabi Apai, the California dealer for Pipistrel, was at the factory for some training and sent these photos of our planes under construction.

The delays have not been an issue for the overall project since there are many moving pieces that need to be completed, such as installing the electrical circuits at the respective airports and getting new hangars at the City of Mendota.  Currently, we have installed charger circuits at Reedley Municipal Airport and Fresno Chandler Executive Airport.  Mendota has acquired a Port-a-Hangar and is working on getting an adjustment to their Airport Layout Plan to facilitate its installation and adding the charger circuit.  A second Port-a-Hangar will be acquired by January.

We have also been working with top level FAA staff in Washington D.C., Kansas City, and Seattle to get the initial airworthiness certification and collaborate on data collection to help advance electric propulsion in aviation within the U.S.  These talks are on-going, but the FAA staff we have been working with have been very helpful and very interested to be working with us on this project.  More updates on this front as they develop.

Once we have a more definite delivery date for the aircraft, we will let everyone know.  Stay tuned; we are getting closer to receiving aircraft.

Alpha Electros arrive at Oshkosh!


The two Alpha Electros ordered by the Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum (TAM) in Compton, CA have arrived at Oshkosh for AirVenture 2017!!  One will be on display at the Pipistrel Aircraft booth and the other located at GAMA pavilion.  Representatives from TAM will be at the Pipistrel booth to answer questions about their program and to talk about the coordination and collaboration they are doing with the Sustainable Aviation Project.  Both projects have similar goals to provide flight training with the Alpha Electros and showcase the value of electric propulsion aircraft in the U.S.  If you are going to Oshkosh, look up Thomas Paddon and Robin Petgrave from TAM while you are there and ask them about their program.  Also, more information can be found here:

The Sustainable Aviation Project is working to get the charger installation and hangar contracts out to bid concurrent with making the second progress payment for the four (4) Alpha Electros coming for our program.  We are still estimating delivery in October or early November.

Airplanes on order!

They are ordered!!  On May 24, the City of Reedley wired their deposits to Pipistrel for the last two Alpha Electros and sets of chargers for the project.  The City of Mendota had ordered their two aircraft and chargers the previous week, so now all four aircraft and chargers are ordered.  We have received serial numbers and completion dates from the Pipistrel factory with the Mendota aircraft scheduled to be completed at the factory in August and the Reedley aircraft to be completed in September of this year.  Pipistrel is saying the shipping will require an added 4-6 weeks, so we are expecting the aircraft to start arriving in Fresno by early October.


Today (April 12) we crossed a major milestone for our project!  The Fresno County Transportation Authority Board approved the $1,071,348 grant agreement with the City of Mendota and City of Reedley that authorizes the purchase of the four (4) Pipistrel Alpha Electro trainers, chargers for each aircraft, two new hangars for Mendota, and $90,000 in training assistance grant funds for youth from disadvantaged communities in Fresno County.  Each city must now approve the agreement, but that is just procedural at this point.  We should be ordering aircraft by the end of April or the first week of May.  Will update everyone once the orders are placed and we get an estimated delivery.  Stay tuned..

Grant reviews and electric chargers

We have had some new developments over the last few weeks that I want to share with everyone following our project.

  1. The draft cooperative grant agreement was sent to the City of Reedley and City of Mendota for review by Fresno County Transportation Authority on Friday of last week. Both City Managers are currently reviewing the document and our goal is to have the agreement signed and approved to release the funding by April 12 or shortly thereafter.
  2. We are meeting next week with staff from Mazzei Flying Service and Reedley College to go over the options for the aircraft and charger locations prior to finalizing the order for the aircraft after the grant agreement is signed on April 12. The charger locations are very important since each charger will be customized by Pipistrel to operate on the available voltage and amperage capacity at each hangar location on the respective airports.  Once the chargers are set up at the factory, they can’t be changed in the field to operate off different voltage, so we must get this right the first time.  Three of the four airports have 240 volt, 3- phase power available, and one has 240 volt single phase.  We have started to explore the possibility of using off-grid solar powered electric vehicle charging stations like this unit made by Envision Solar of San Diego called an EV ARC to provide power for the Alpha Electros as we expand the network of chargers across the Valley in the future (Phase II).

The solar panel tracks the sun and battery storage provides sufficient power to charge vehicles at night or during stormy weather.  The ARCs are portable (using a special truck and trailer arrangement seen in the background) and require no permitting or site preparation for installation.  An upgraded version of the ARC could be an ideal solution for adding electric aircraft charging infrastructure at small airports all over the region.  So far, Envision Solar has been supportive of the idea and we are exploring how these chargers could support both electric aircraft, cars, and even trucks from the same unit.  A zero-emission, zero-carbon solution for multiple modes of transportation at airports!   How cool would that be!!

Thanks for following our progress!  More updates as they come along so stay tuned.


First Blog Entry!

Welcome to the Sustainable Aviation Project Blog site.  My goal with these posts is to keep interested parties up to date on developments as the project progresses.  I am new to blogging, so please bear with me as I post updates.

Project Status:

We have $1,071,000 in funding approved to purchase the four (4) Pipistrel Alpha Electro trainers and chargers to support their operation at the four airports in Fresno County.  We are now working to get the grant agreement developed and signed by our partner cities of Reedley and Mendota.  Our target date for the grant agreement approval is the April 12 meeting for the granting agency, Fresno County Transportation Authority.  Following the agreement approval, we should be able to order the aircraft and chargers by mid-April.  Pipistrel is saying it will take about 6 months from date of order to receive the aircraft and equipment.  This will mean that the planes and equipment should arrive in mid-October 2017, if we can process the order as planned.  This is not a bad time of year in the San Joaquin Valley since the weather is still rather dry and temperatures are cooling off from summer.


Working with Pipistrel, we have determined that we can deploy three (3) 20 kW chargers that need 208/240 volt, 3-phase electricity and one (1) 10 kW charger that needs 208/240 volt single phase electricity to build our network of chargers for the aircraft operations at the four airports.  One 20 kW charger is planned to be located at Reedley Municipal (O32), Fresno Yosemite International (FAT), and Fresno Chandler Executive (FCH).  Mendota Municipal (M90) will get the 10 kW charger.  The chargers are not fully weatherproof, so they must be located inside hangars. This is a photo of a charger at the Pipistrel factory in Slovenia and you can see it is not in a weatherproof enclosure.

City of Mendota will get two new hangars as part of the project and our plan is to install the single charger in one of the hangars and provide a plug to the charger in each hangar.  This will require some wiring between the hangars, but since only one aircraft is being charged at a time, should not create any issue with charger capacity.  Here is a photo of the new hangar design.

This design matches the current hangar structure on the field as seen in this photo.

Cost of Operation on Electricity:

This is the # 1 question I get asked about the project and the quick answer is that we don’t know for sure since nobody in the U.S. has operated these aircraft yet.  However, we have come up with some estimates and here is what we think it will cost.

As context for people outside of California, our electricity costs here are some of the highest in the U.S., so costs for “fuel” in other areas could be much lower.  Of course, our 100LL costs are some of the highest in the country, so we think it will balance out.  In fact, the flight school that will be using the Alpha Electros is currently paying about $6.50 per gallon for avgas in their Piper Tomahawk trainers.

We are estimating the electricity “fuel” cost per hour at about $5 based on replacing 14 kWh of electricity for a 1 hour flight lesson at an average cost of $.35 per kWh.  The planes will have 21 kWh capacity battery packs which yields 90 minutes of total flight time per charge and 14 kWh represents about 66% of that capacity for a 1 hour training mission.  The $.35 per kWh is based on a Pacific Gas and Electric Company A-6 rate schedule (see this link for details http://www.pge.com/tariffs/tm2/pdf/ELEC_SCHEDS_A-6.pdf )for commercial property customers.  The A-6 rate offers time-of-use electric costs that range from a maximum of $.55 per kWh for peak demand summer use from Noon to 6 pm weekdays to off-peak costs of $.18 per kWh from 9:30 pm to 8:30 am on weekdays and all day on Saturday and Sunday.  Partial peak costs are $.25 per kWh weekdays from 8:30 am to Noon and 6 pm to 9:30 pm.  The calculation is as follows:

The aircraft will fly 4 hours per day and operate 6 days per week.  Each aircraft will be fully charged overnight using off-peak electricity at $.18 per kWh for the first hour of flight @ $2.52.  Hour 2 will be charged using partial peak electricity at $.25 per kWh @ $3.50.  Hour 3 will be charged using peak electricity at $.55 per kWh @ $7.70.  Hour 4 will be charged at peak electricity at $.55 per kWh @ $7.70.  This results in a weekday average cost of electricity for 56 kWh per day of $5.35 per hour.  Weekend flights on Saturday will be a flat $2.52 per hour using the off-peak electricity.  Total weekly cost of electricity is estimated to be $117.18 for 24 hours of flight time which yields an average cost of $4.88 per hour.  This estimate is for summer operations.

During the winter, there is no peak demand costs, only partial and off-peak.  In this case the average should be about $.19 per kWh for the 56 kWh used each day or $2.66 per hour.

Of course, all this is an estimate at this point, but we will be equipping each charger with a data logger device and track the usage each day.

That is it for now.  Thanks for your interest in the project.  More posts as the project progresses.