Electric planes put the Valley on cutting edge of technology

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The big reveal at Fresno Chandler Executive Airport took a quiet, but groundbreaking approach.

"The four aircraft ... are the first of their kind in the United States, the first all-electric aircraft that are certified to fly by the FAA," said Reedley City Manager Nicole Zieba.

A two-seat Pipistrel Alpha Electro aircraft quietly took to the skies Tuesday.

The plane is part of a sustainable aviation project headed by San Joaquin Valley Clean Transportation director Joseph Oldham.

"Battery technology just has not gotten to a point until recently to where electric propulsion was practical."

Oldham says the $135,000 dollar planes can fly for an hour on a single charge.

Inside the cockpit, he keeps a close eye on the battery monitor. The planes were built in Slovenia.

"These are production electric airplanes. These are factory-built, factory-warranted and supported," said Oldham.

Over the next decade, Oldham expects the aviation industry to make major breakthroughs in electric propulsion systems.

The registration numbers on the sides indicate the cities that own the planes: "R" for Reedley AND "M" for Mendota. The cities tapped into a million dollars worth of Measure C funds.

"This was the perfect candidate for the new technology slice of that pie, so we proposed the program," said Mendota City Manager Vince DiMaggio.

The plan calls for using the planes to help low-income students to get their pilot's license and take on a new career flight path.

"Oh this is huge," said Mendota Mayor Rolando Castro. "This is historic today. This is huge for our youth."
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