Airbus Group’s E-Fan Electric Aircraft Completes Historic Channel Crossing (Or Maybe Not)


The all electric aircraft E-Fan

The all electric aircraft E-Fan

Airbus Group announced a historic all-electric flight across English Channel on July 10, some 106 years after Louis Blériot’s epic flight.

“Louis Blériot was one of the most famous aviation pioneers of his time. He performed the Channel crossing on 25 July 1909 in his Blériot XI, an aircraft that not only became the record–breaking aeroplane of 1909 and 1910, but also the first aircraft to be put into mass production and launch France’s aviation industry. Bleriot’s company was based in Suresnes, near Paris, at the same site where part of the E-Fan team is now located.”

E-Fan is an electric aircraft that Airbus Group intends to produce from 2017. The prototype got more battery capacity before the flight of just 74 kilometres (46 miles) between Lydd, England, and Calais in France. Journey took 36 minutes – within its 1 hour of range.

“The E-Fan is powered by lithium-ion batteries, which offer an increased battery capacity of 60 percent compared to the aircraft’s original configuration. Flown by test pilot Didier Esteyne, the E-Fan weighs around 600 kilogrammes [1,320 pounds] and travelled at a maximum altitude of about 1,000 metres [3,500 feet].”

Jean Botti, Airbus Group Chief Technical Officer said:

“The E-Fan project and today’s historic Channel crossing show that the pioneering spirit and ingenuity demonstrated by Louis Blériot and the other early aviators is still alive today. The 10th of July 2015 will now join the list of famous days in aviation history and I’m sure Blériot would be proud of this achievement. We continue to embody the spirit of innovation and tackle technical challenges which both advance aerospace as we know it today and pioneer the next generation of electric and hybrid flight.”

Hugues Duval in Electric Cri-Cri beat Airbus

Hugues Duval in Electric Cri-Cri beat Airbus

But this is not the whole story. As you can find on Autoblog, Hugues Duval beat Airbus in the flight across the English Channel by one day! And he did the flight to England and back to France, while E-Fan went to England in boxes and then flew back.

“Yesterday, Duval beat the big-budgeted effort to the Channel-crossing punch, making the trip in his trusty converted Colomban Cri-Cri, and landing at Saint-Inglevert Airfield, near Calais, at 7:42 PM local time. Already in possession of a permanent Permit to Fly, all he needed to do to make the trip was file a flight plan, something which was done with an amount of secrecy to prevent any possible interference.”

Pipistrel aircraft Alpha Electro

Pipistrel aircraft Alpha Electro

There was also another company, Slovenian aircraft maker Pipistrel, which was ready to do the flight on July 7, but Siemens banned the use of its motor (as we later found out, Siemens provides motors for Airbus)!

We are amazed by what Siemens did to Pipistrel, a company that entered the EV business prior to Airbus:

“On Sunday 5. July in the afternoon we received by mail a letter signed by Dr. Frank Anton, head of e-Aircraft at Siemens, and by Mr. Tim Grage, Commercial Head of e-Aircraft, saying:
“Our Motor in its current version is neither designed, nor tested, nor approved by us for a flight above water – we explicitly prohibit you to use or let anyone else use our Motor for any flight above water.”
The letter went on to say:
“In the event you do not inform us immediately about the location of the Motor and hand it back to us, we will take any further necessary legal steps to stop any planned flight.”

E-Fan infographic

E-Fan infographic

E-Fan infographic

E-Fan infographic

Category: General

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17 responses to "Airbus Group’s E-Fan Electric Aircraft Completes Historic Channel Crossing (Or Maybe Not)"
  1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

    “In the event you do not inform us immediately about the location of the Motor and hand it back to us, we will take any further necessary legal steps to stop any planned flight.”

    * * * * *

    “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” — William Shakespeare, Henry The Sixth, Part 2 Act 4, scene 2

    1. Taser54 says:

      You obviously don’t understand the context of the phrase you quoted.

      1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        Oh, I think I do. Perhaps you don’t understand that the reason this phrase is quoted so often is that it has relevance even when taken out of context.

  2. Anonymous says:

    “Our Motor in its current version is neither designed, nor tested, nor approved by us for a flight above water ”

    So it’s an under water submarine motor?!?!?!?!?

    1. Interesting … considering that four Siemens motors powered the Solar Impulse 2, more that 8000 km over the Pacific Ocean from Japan to Hawaii. This was just a few days prior to the letter.

      Si2 must be a different model of Siemens electric motor, designed so electrons flow better when flying over water. 😉

    2. Company politics and ego’s aside … the 3 achievements by e-Fan, Pipistrel, and Solar Impulse engineering teams all within a week of each other is amazing. All 3 teams are demonstrating what is possible today, using electric powered aircraft.

    3. James says:

      Siemens’ new letter to Pipistrel:

      “Dear Pipistrel, we changed our minds now – you can fly with our motor wherever you wish.
      We decided it’s now OK for you to fly over water with our motor since Solar Impulse 2 did it and so did Airbus’ E-Fan.

      Good Luck,


      1. James says:


  3. James says:

    I’m a Boeing guy, I live in Boeing-land, and I prefer flying in Boeing aircraft – made in USA and a better flight safety record. That said, I wanted to give Airbus a big high five over developing the E-fan…UNTIL I read the rest of this story! Man! I thought Boeing was at a disadvantage, developing airplanes as a publicly-traded independent company going against it’s chief rival, Airbus – a gigantic consortium, publically and privately funded by 3 European nations!

    If the Siemens motors are the same in both the Airbus and Pipistrel, there is one big lawsuit in the making! Hugues Duval better get the credit for the milestone – not Airbus! Even the fact that he flew both ways is in-your-face to the giant European aircraft consortium.

    1. Nick says:

      All true.

      One caveat is that he didn’t take off under his own power. That adds some sort of asterisk to the record.

  4. Ontario Leaf says:

    I read the statement from Pipistrel. Written by a gentleman. They even congratulated Airbus.
    I feel sorry for the pilots and the people at Airbus engineering this plane. A bitter “first” crossing indeed.
    I am not sorry for the responsible executives at Airbus or Siemens that attempted to win with such disgusting tactics.
    Corporate politics at its worst. Some people really need to check their mirrors every morning and see if they like the reflection.

    1. Phr3d says:

      +1, well said

    2. GSP says:


      Very sad when corporations stoop to tactics like Airbus and Siemens did.


  5. Alan says:

    Maybe airbus missed the milestone, but then again, they may have some electric airplanes to sell in a few years … which is what they’re in business for, after all.

  6. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

    It’s interesting that this turned into a real race, with the winner succeeding only a day before the challenger.

    Reminds me of Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight, which was up against a rival attempt by Richard E. Byrd and the American Trans-Oceanic Company, both competing for the Orteig Prize.

  7. ModernMarvelFan says:

    If the motor is 60kW and it can last 1 hr, I guess the battery is less than 60kWh…

    The problem is still the battery…

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      There are electric airplanes which have a flight time of as much as 90 minutes under optimal conditions. I’m surprised that no one has flown across the English Channel until now. Perhaps that’s due to the area typically having unfavorable and/or turbulent air conditions?