In 1927, Charles Lindbergh captured the world’s collective imagination when he performed the first flight across the Atlantic. He took off from Roosevelt Field in New York in his aircraft, the Spirit of St Louis, flew for 33.5 hours, and landed at Le Bourget Airport outside of Paris. Now, a French team aims to repeat the feat – only this time in a carbon-neutral aircraft: the Eraole.
The Spirit of St Louis
The Spirit of St Louis was a modern aircraft for its time. Powered by a single Wright Whirlwind J-5C radial engine capable of producing 223 hp, it had a maximum takeoff weight of 2,330 kg (5,135 lb) and cruised along at about 175 km/hr (109 mph). It was a monoplane, a design only just coming into its own, with a wingspan of 14 meters (46 feet) and a wing area of 30.8 square meters (331.5 square feet).
The Eraole weighs in with a max takeoff weight of a svelte 750 kg (1650 lb). Its cruising speed is a little slower than its predecessor at only 140 km/hr, with an economy cruise of a meager 65 km/hr. The power plant is where the “green” part of the flight comes in. An electric motor pulls the Eraole through the sky with 50 kilowatts of nominal power output (100 kilowatts max). In good old fashioned terms, that’s only 67 hp (134 max). Interestingly, both aircraft have the same wingspan (14 m/46 feet) and wing area (30.8 sq meters/331.5 square feet). The size is where the similarity ends, however. The Eraole sports a novel bi-plane wing configuration, with the lower wing at the front of the aircraft and the upper wing trailing behind the crew compartment.
The Spirit of St Louis was loaded down with 450 gallons of aviation fuel. That’s about 3600 pounds, or nearly 2/3 of the total weight of the aircraft! The Eraole is powered by a combination of 46 square meters of solar cells and a generator powered by biofuel made from algae. The generator kicks in when it’s dark or cloudy. The solar cells weigh in at a meager 1.1 kg per square meter – or 50.6 kg total (111.32 pounds).
Like the Spirit of St Louis, the Eraole will take off from New York and land at Le Bourget Airport. Unfortunately for Eraole pilot Raphaël Dinelli, the trip is likely to take almost twice as long, or about 60 hours. That’s a very long time to spend in a cramped cockpit with no sleep. Dinelli hopes to make the flight in the summer of 2016.