The newest electric airplane to make its first flight is squarely aimed at recreational fliers, even those without a pilot’s license. The FlyNano turned some heads at last year’s Aero Friedrichshafen aviation trade show in Germany thanks to its interesting design. The FlyNano is a miniature electric flying boat, making it essentially an airborne jet ski.
The original airplane was going to have a gas engine powerplant, but the Finnish company says the ever-improving electric motors and batteries means FlyNano will be an all-electric airplane moving forward.
The first flight was a very short one, just a handful of seconds. And the airplane didn’t really get out ofground effect. The wing area looks rather small for an electric airplane compared to other models we’ve seen, which tend to have the efficient, higher-aspect-ratio wings typical of sailplanes.
The designer claims a 10,000-foot ceiling for the airplane, but that might be a bit optimistic with the current setup. FlyNano says it will continue flight testing throughout the summer. We’re looking forward to seeing longer and higher flights, though the FlyNano could be fun as an aircraft designed to fly in ground effect.
Because the the lightweight carbon fiber fuselage and minimalist design, the airplane weighs less than 70 kilograms (154 pounds). Its minimal mass helps improve performance, but more importantly for some, the weight falls under the Federal Aviation Administration’s definition of an ultralight aircraft. That means if the airplane can meet some of the other requirements, you wouldn’t have to have a pilot’s license to legally fly the FlyNano in the United States. However, you would fall under the idiot column if you thought it would be a good idea to fly any ultralight without a reasonable amount of training.
Like many of the early electric airplanes, the FlyNano isn’t about going fast or going places. It’s all about enjoying flight and the view from above. While the company claims a maximum cruising speed of around 85 miles per hour and a maximum range of 40 miles, it’s likely those two will not be achieved together. A leisurely cruise speed of 40 to 50 mph may be more realistic for maximizing time aloft. Still, the ability to have an airplane that can safely cruise the waterways and quietly fly through the skies is a very attractive option for many pilots and those who would like to be pilots.
There is no cockpit, or even a windshield. A helmet with a visor makes a lot of sense, but even just a pair of classic flying goggles would do the trick. FlyNano emphasizes over and over its motto of “feel the wind.” And the minimalist design makes sure that won’t be a problem.
Like many other electric airplane makers, FlyNano isn’t delivering airplanes to customers quite yet. The price for a FlyNano is around $40,000 at current exchange rates and the company hopes to have airplanes sliding off the assembly line by the end of next year.
The development path of electric airplanes has followed a very similar line as the original airplanes did 100 years ago. Most cannot fly very far or very fast and critics like to point out there seems to be little practical value for the relatively pricey devices. And like some of the early airplane designs from a century ago, the FlyNano is opting for the waterways as its airport.
In the decade after the Wright brothers, there were a lot of designers trying to create their own niche in the blossoming aviation industry and like today’s electric airplanes, there was a wide range of ideas. And most of those who first saw the earth from above back in those early days were as smitten with the view they enjoyed as those who will buy the FlyNano and the other small electric airplanes today.