“The future of flight might just be battery powered – I took an hour trip over London”

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Flight-sharing company Wingly now offers sightseeing tours around London in the two-seater Pipistrel Velis Electro, the first legal electric plane worth £167,000

Journalist Dan Hall tries out the world’s first certified all-electric plane

Electric cars, okay. I’m all for becoming as green as possible in terms of transportation. Battery-powered bus, I’m going to ride on it. Electric cruise liners, all aboard.

Until I was told my next reporting assignment would be a flight in the world’s first legal electric airplane – then I was all for going dead white.

WATT?! I’m terrified of flying at the best of times so the thought of being thousands of feet from solid ground in a light aircraft with the reassuring roar of a fossil fuel engine replaced by silence amps, did not charge me confidence.

Wingly, a flight-sharing company, now offers sightseeing getaways in a two-seater Pipistrel Velis Electro, the first electric aircraft certified by the EU Aviation Safety Agency.

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Owner and pilot Deepak Mahajan runs the London Airsports Center
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Picture:

Phil Harris)

Instead of a loud, gas-guzzling motor, the Velis Electro – worth around £167,000 – is powered by two lithium-ion batteries, each containing 1,152 cells that look alarmingly similar to the AAs in your remote.

It takes about an hour to fully charge, giving the plane enough power to fly for an hour, making it perfect as a trainer plane.

And so I arrived at Damyns Hall airfield in Upminster, east London, with anxious butterflies – requiring no weight – hanging in my stomach.







Dan Hall and Deepak Mahajan ready to take off
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Picture:

Phil Harris)

Chief flight instructor Deepak Mahajan, 67 – who owns two of the electric planes – assures me there is no need to worry.

And with over 15,000 flying hours under his belt, I think I should be in good hands.

Still, without a Wetherspoons nearby to serve up the unnerving Stella that’s usually a regular part of my pre-flight routine, I feel slightly uneasy.

Deepak says there are only minor differences with fossil fuel planes. “The main selling point is that it’s quiet,” he adds.

I sit next to him in the cockpit not knowing if he has started or not.







Just over 2% of all global CO2 emissions come from the aviation industry
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Picture:

Phil Harris)

Then I see the propeller do what propellers do, but with no Spitfire-like bangs or crackles – just an eerily quiet electric roar.

We glide down the grass runway and then, Oh my God, I’m airborne as one of Wingly’s first passengers on an electric sightseeing flight over the London area.

Below us I see the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge and need not shout it above the sound of a propeller engine.

Sightseeing, however, can be tricky when your eyes nervously shift to the dash to see how much charge the batteries have left.







Dan got to see the sights of London
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Picture:

Phil Harris)

And while I do my best to ignore intrusive thoughts of doom, it doesn’t help that the airfield is unfortunately sandwiched between a graveyard and a paintball center containing the fuselage of a crashed plane.

So I’m grateful when we landed in one piece.

And no doubt, the neighbors of the airfield are also grateful that a few planes above their roofs each day are of the silent and electric type.







Charging lasts approximately one flight hour
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Picture:

Phil Harris)

But it is the environment that will benefit the most from the green aircraft revolution.

Current estimates indicate that just over 2% of all global CO2 emissions come from the aviation industry.

Deepak added, “We have reduced our flight school’s carbon footprint by 50% simply by swapping two gasoline-powered aircraft for two electric-powered aircraft.







The Velis Electro is powered by two lithium-ion batteries
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Picture:

Phil Harris)

Sooner or later, our blue skies will have to get a little greener if we want to reduce carbon emissions.

But I can definitely say that, for nervous travelers like me, I’d rather stay on the ground than fly electric.

Electric sightseeing flights can be booked on wingly.io for £177 per passenger.

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