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From Existing Sport Plane To E-Racing Machine

Team Condor Is Engineering Custom-Made Modifications To Light Aircraft For Air Race E

Condor Aviation has made its name building and testing modifications to light aircraft. Now, thrilled by the challenge of electric flight, Team Condor—eight engineers from Condor Aviation—is applying that same expertise to create a customized electric aircraft for Air Race E.

Approximately seven years ago, Martyn Wiseman acquired a disused airfield, which dated back to 1942, in Yorkshire, U.K. With the backing of his structural engineering company Condor Projects, he set about creating a small aviation R&D business—Condor Aviation. The airfield site underwent major renovation and now houses a full engineering shop that designs, builds and tests modifications to light aircraft. This is the headquarters of Team Condor, where Wiseman and a team of eight engineers are turning an existing sport plane into an electric-powered racing machine.

If air racing provides a boost to battery technology—as F1 has done for fuel efficiency and KERS—that can only be a good thing.

"Air Race E is a tremendously exciting challenge! We’re a competitive group of people who like to win, so air racing is a fantastic opportunity. Over the past 20 years, we’ve been undertaking R&D and modifying aircraft—first as a hobby and, more recently, as a professional operation. After meeting Air Race E CEO, Jeff Zaltman, we decided we were in a great position to assemble a team and build a competitive race plane," Wiseman (pictured) said in an interview with Airbus.

He said the company does not intend to "reinvent the wheel. There are some brilliant, proven airframes out there. And with some—admittedly extensive!—modification, we can change the powertrain from fossil fuels to electric. What needs to be considered is the weight of the batteries to enable the aircraft to run at full speed for the duration required. There are two options available: an airframe capable of carrying a large 250 hp-plus motor with heavy batteries, or a lighter frame with a 100 hp motor and lighter batteries. Both approaches are viable, so we’ve decided to go for both: an unlimited racer and a lightweight-restricted category."

Wiseman said Condor Aviation is one of just a few companies in the UK permitted to design and build or modify experimental aircraft under the new 'E Conditions'. "This means we can design, build and test-fly anything aviation-related without having to wait for either the Permit to Fly or a Certificate of Airworthiness from the regulatory authorities. That cuts months, if not years, off the build time.

He said that electric aviation is critical—from both an ecological and a commercial point of view. "Air travel is here to stay, so we have to look to an alternative means of power, even if only for short-haul flights in the first instance. If air racing provides a boost to battery technology—as F1 has done for fuel efficiency and KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System)—that can only be a good thing," Wiseman said.

(Images provided with Airbus news release)



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