The US Federal Aviation Administration has granted Slovenian light aircraft manufacturer Pipistrel an airworthiness exemption for its Velis Electro trainer.

The company, which is a subsidiary of Textron eAviation, sees the certification as its first step toward taking the expansive US flight training market by storm.

“The FAA exemption is an important milestone on the journey to sustainable flight,” says Gabriel Massey, managing director at Pipistrel. “Taking off for the first time is exhilarating, and even more so in an electric aircraft. We are looking forward to seeing more pilots take to the skies and experience their first flight in the Velis Electro.”

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Source: Pipistrel

Pipistrel’s Velis Electro has gained FAA certification, allowing the company to begin selling aircraft in the USA

The FAA exemption now allows flight schools in the USA to use the electric aircraft within their flight training programmes. It’s been touted as a lower-cost, sustainable alternative to the traditional fossil-fuel single-engine piston aircraft like Textron’s Cessna Skyhawk, which has dominated the pilot training scene for decades.

“This is a great day for flight training organizations and aspiring pilots,” adds Kriya Shortt, chief executive of Textron’s eAviation. “With this exemption, the cost-barrier to pursuing primary flight training can be substantially reduced.”

Pipistrel’s Velis Electro was the first commercially available, all-electric aircraft to secure certification anywhere, following EASA approval for the two-seat type in 2020.

Velis Electro has lower operating costs than a fossil-fuel-powered aircraft, in part because its batteries only have an endurance of about an hour of what the company calls “active minutes” – the time the engine is actually running. The aircraft’s engine is engineered to stop when it is not moving on the ground, for example at a holding point.

Textron Aviation bought Pipistrel in April 2022 in a €218 million ($238 million) all-cash deal, bringing the operation into the US airframer’s eAviation business unit, the company’s newest. It has kept Pipistrel as a distinct brand, alongside fellow fixed-wing aircraft manufacturers Beechcraft and Cessna.