Slovenia-based aircraft manufacturer Pipistrel has obtained the first type certificate for an all-electric airplane to be issued anywhere in the world. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) issued the certificate to Pipistrel’s battery-operated Velis Electro in June.

The two-seat aircraft is designed for training, and follows on the company’s Alpha Electro, of which there is one in Canada, registered as an advanced ultralight to a private owner in Pitt Meadows, British Columbia. The European company also manufactures electric motor-gliders.

“The type certification of the Pipistrel Velis Electro is the first step towards the commercial use of electric aircraft, which is needed to make emission-free aviation feasible,” Pipistrel founder and CEO Ivo Boscarol said in a statement. “It is considerably quieter than other aeroplanes and produces no combustion gases at all.”

Thirty-one Velis Electros are on the order books to customers in seven different countries.

“AlpinAirPlanes GmbH is very proud to be given the great opportunity by Pipistrel to be part of this game-changing journey,” said launch customer spokesperson Marc B. Corpataux. “With more than 400 flight hours and 25 pilots introduced to the predecessor Alpha Electro, we are convinced of the suitability of electric flight in the daily flight school environment.” AlpinAirPlanes plans to base 12 Velis Electros at 10 separate airfields in Switzerland.

Not only will these aircraft be emissions-free in the air, the charging of their batteries will also be emissions-free. “Each base will be equipped with 150 m2 of photovoltaic panels, producing electricity for 12,000 flight hours per year on the Velis Electro,” Corpataux added.

Pipistrel also manufactures and makes available to third parties a type-certified electric propulsion system.

“For EASA, the type certification of this aircraft marks a significant dual milestone,” said the head of EASA’s general aviation department. “On 18th of May 2020, we type-certified its engine as the first electric engine – now we have followed up with the first type certification of a plane flying that engine.”

Given the much smaller number of moving parts in electrically powered aircraft, and the reliability of electric motors, operating costs for these training aircraft will be substantially lower than for their traditional reciprocating engine-powered peers. This should prove to greatly change pilot training costs, especially at the private licence stage.

There has been a Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement since 2011 between Transport Canada and the EASA on aircraft certification. Can we expect the Velis Electro to appear on these shores soon?

Photos courtesy of Pipistrel