Do airlines dream of electric fleets?

With the world becoming increasingly conscious of its ecological impact, how is the aviation sector following suit? Mark Broadbent explores some of the dif erent electrification initiatives under investigation.

Airbus and RollsRoyce will begin test flying the E-Fan X later this year. The former British Airways Connect and Swiss BAE Systems Avro RJ100 is to fly with a hybrid-electric powerplant installed in the number three position.

Aircraft manufacturers have been exploring the potential for alternative fuels for more than half a century. In 1956, Convair successfully flew a modified B-36H Peacemaker equipped with a nuclear-powered General Electric J47 jet engine. A year later and north of the border, de Havilland Canada was 11 years into its 1,657-strong DHC-2 Beaver production run. The comparably diminutive, utility aircraft was powered by a Pratt & Whitney product – the R-985 Wasp Junior radial engine, first run in 1929. Remarkably, it is an example of the latter type that, 62 years later, has given the aviation industry a breakthrough in its bid for an alternative to internal combustion engines.

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