• Air Race E carries out landmark first-ever all-electric racing plane flight
  • Nordic Air Racing Team undertakes inaugural piloted test
  • ‘This is a historic moment and a milestone achievement in the aviation industry’ – Air Race E CEO, Jeff Zaltman
  • Development process supported by global leaders Airbus and Ansys 

Air Race E has made history with the completion of the first-ever flight of a piloted all-electric racing airplane, representing a significant breakthrough in air racing and the wider aviation industry.

The Nordic Air Racing team achieved the honor of carrying out the inaugural test flight in Norway, having emerged out front in a production race between competing squads to perfect the cutting-edge technology.

The first flight of the race plane was the result of months of intensive development and will act as a platform for the launch of the world’s first electric air race series, Air Race E, which is scheduled to get underway in 2023.

The ten-minute test flight took place at Tønsberg Airport and was operated under the supervision of the Civil Aviation Authority of Norway. Air Race E stands out from other air competitions with its commitment to piloted electric flight, and Nordic Air Racing Team pilot Rein Inge Hoff became the first aviator to get behind the controls of an Air Race E-specification aircraft when he completed four circuits of the airfield at 2000ft during the historic run.

Hoff carried out some slow flight and control tests to ensure the aircraft behaved as predicted, testing with 90kW of power and working up to 140kts as planned, around 50-60% of the plane’s eventual potential in full race trim.

Air Race E will see the world’s top pilots go head-to-head at a number of high-profile events around the world, with aircraft racing just metres above the ground at speeds of over 400km/h (250mph).

The Nordic Air Racing Team is one of 17 teams that took up the challenge to join the series. As well as the Open class, Air Race E is also set to run two other categories – a partly-standardised Performance class and an eVTOL class.

The maiden test put the Norwegian team’s electric aircraft – a specifically converted Cassutt IIIM formula race plan – through its paces with a focus on procedural operations and safety while further trials over subsequent weeks will fine-tune the high-performance aspects of the aircraft.

Air Race E has already established itself as a platform where innovation in electric propulsion can be fostered, developed and accelerated, and the historic piloted test flight is a significant step in making the sustainable series a reality.

Air Race E’s Official Founding Partner, Airbus, provide competing teams with research data and industry insight as part of the collective drive to develop cleaner, faster, and more technically advanced electric aircraft – both in the sporting and commercial sector.

Likewise, Air Race E’s Official Simulation Software Partner, Ansys, has helped to advance the process of aircraft electrification by making simulation software, training and consultation available to the competing teams.

Ansys’ comprehensive suite of multiphysics simulation tools have been used to address some of the toughest engineering challenges the Air Race E teams face, concurrently accelerating the aviation industry’s push to become even more sustainable – a key pillar of Air Race E’s strategy.

Jeff Zaltman, CEO of Air Race E, said: “The first-ever flight of our all-electric racing plane is a milestone achievement, both in the development of Air Race E as an international championship and in the progression of wider aviation technology.

“We are extremely proud of how the Nordic Air Racing Team, with the collaboration of our stakeholders, has accomplished this amazing feat of engineering, even despite the challenges faced over the past year.

“We have assembled a supremely talented and experienced group of experts and pioneers across all areas of the championship to drive this project forward, and I am confident in saying we are the leading player in the electrification of aviation motorsport.”

Tomas Brødreskift, Team Principal, Mechanical Integration and Project Manager of Nordic Air Racing, said: “Words cannot describe how proud and happy we are after this first flight!

“It’s taken months of hard labour, working day and night, facing difficult setbacks on the way and even dealing with moments of doubt, but here we are!

“We are delighted that it went so well. No matter how well prepared you are, and how confident you are after ground tests, seeing a test pilot take to the skies for the first time in an aircraft you designed is always a nail-biting moment… It’s time to celebrate now!”

Karim Mokaddem, Airbus Electrification Fast Track Leader, said: “More than ever, when we look at the concept of sustainable mobility, the challenges push us to work differently, to be disruptive and to use the learnings and achievements from a mix of sectors. In this case, flying aircraft using tried and tested electric technologies from the automotive industry is proof of that and is an approach we fully support as part of our electrification journey.”

Shane Emswiler, Senior Vice President, Ansys, said: “Competitions in motorsport have a habit of leading to exciting technological breakthroughs. Nordic Air Racing’s first flight is a testament to that, and to Air Race E’s incredible work in gathering all of the building blocks necessary for innovation. We’re honoured to have been a part of this milestone and look forward to being a part of future advancements that allow aviation to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.”