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Research and development of a four-seat electric airplane will begin soon, hot on the heels of the recent successful test flight of a two-seat version, Zou Haining, deputy head of the Liaoning General Aviation Academy, said on Nov 3.
"We believe there's a big demand for that type of electric plane, which can carry a bigger load on longer flights. It would transport both people and goods," he said. "And we will continue to improve the performance of electric planes."
The academy successfully completed the debut flight of an advanced electric plane on Nov 1 in Faku county of Shenyang, Liaoning province. Observers say the test flight, which lasted two hours, demonstrated China's leading role in the industry.
The electric plane project started in 2012, led by Yang Fengtian, an academic at the Chinese Academy of Engineering. Yang is also president of Shenyang Aerospace University in the province.
It took the team two and a half years of intense work to design an aircraft light enough for electric power, along with a motor efficient enough to maximize the plane's lithium batteries.
In 2014, the team's first aircraft, the two-seat RX1E, went on display in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, and attracted worldwide attention. Liaoning Ruixiang General Aviation Co, a division of the academy, gave 128 orders.
The more advanced two-seat version, the RX1E-A, achieved a flight time of two hours, up from about 45 minutes for its predecessor. With a maximum takeoff weight of 600 kilograms and a cruise speed of up to 160 kilometers per hour, the RX1E-A can fly for 120 minutes, starting with fully charged batteries. It can fly at an altitude of nearly 3,000 meters, the academy said.
Each hour of flight will cost only 10 yuan ($1.50) for battery charging, according to Xiang Song, a designer for the RX1E-A.
"Flying this plane is like driving my Volkswagen sedan. It is so easy to control that even a beginner can handle the machine," says Chen Zhanwei, the test pilot who has worked on the project for years.
The improved aircraft is equipped with a parachute that can bring both pilot and plane down safely in the event of an emergency.
The plane's easy maintenance, low operating cost, high safety and environmental friendliness will bring many buyers for a wide range of purposes, such as police patrols, flight training, entertainment and mapping surveys, Zou said.
The extended endurance of the plane will help it tap into markets in the United States and Europe, he said.
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