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Not Your Grandparent CAFE CAFE/VFS Electric Aircraft Symposium, Oshkosh 2019

CAFE/VFS Electric Aircraft Symposium, Oshkosh 2019

By: Rex Alexander

The mission of the Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency Foundation, or CAFE for short, is to create and advance the understanding of personal aircraft technologies through research, analysis, and education. The CAFE Foundation, established in 2007, organized the world's first Electric Aircraft Symposium to address emerging interest in electric propulsion, along with energy and climate issues and has been growing ever since.

This year's day and a half symposium, which was cosponsored by the Vertical Flight Society, did not disappoint, having been attended by several of the leading innovators working on the electrification of tomorrow's aircraft. Organizations in attendance included, but were not limited to, the FAA, Uber, Faraday Aerospace, Joby Aviation, Cora Aero, SAE International, NASA, Radius Capital, and Five-Alpha LLC.

Some of the more interesting discussions at this year's symposium included subjects on Emerging Technologies, Standards & Certification, Safety & Operations, and Electric Aircraft. Earl Lawrence, the FAA's  Executive Director, Aircraft Certification Service, kicked off the session on Standards and Certification with a quote attributed to Wernher von Braun, stating "We can lick gravity, but sometimes the paperwork is overwhelming," in so much as the FAA represents the paperwork. That being said, he went on to emphasize the fact that, at least where the FAA was concerned, "When dealing with new and unique technologies one of the things we have to remember is that everything is about safety, particularly with new innovation."

One area of significant interest to the group concerning the certification of new aircraft in this space centered around the new Federal certification rules for small airplanes known as Part-23. In so much as traditionally held prescriptive requirements are now being replaced with performance-based standards coupled with consensus-based compliance methods for specific designs and technologies. In so doing the group acknowledged the fact that the new Part-23 is not the answer to all the problems but it is a good example of where we as an industry want to move forward from a policy and regulatory standpoint in trying to match the level of regulatory oversight to the level of risk of the operation. With the key element of the new Part-23 being the ability to use industry consensus standards such as those developed by SAE and ASTM, through the collaborative work of experts in the field.  

(Image provided by author: [L-R] Earl Lawrence, FAA, Gregory Bowles, Joby Aviation, Tom Gunnarson, Cora Aero, and Mark DeAngelo, SAE International)



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