Back in 2005, an aeronautical engineering whiz by the name of Giotto Castelli started doodling. Without knowing it, he had started a project that would transform the future of amateur aviation, making it faster, cheaper and more fun for pilots to take to the skies.
Flash forward to today and – give or take a few tweaks – Castelli’s single-seat aircraft design has been brought to market by UK company e-Go Aeroplanes, having scooped top prize in the Light Aircraft Association’s 2007 design competition. The philosophy behind the e-Go plane is simple: build an aeroplane that’s cheap to run and a joy to fly.
Result? An aircraft that costs £60,000 to purchase, with running costs of around £15 per hour. The engine runs on regular unleaded petrol, the wings demount, which means no hangar costs), and there are no certification or licence fees. All you need is a microlight pilot’s licence and a sense of adventure.
Is the e-Go fun to fly?
It sure is.
In terms of performance the e-Go is peerless in its class. It can fly at least 1.5x faster than any other aircraft running on the same power. The e-Go is also incredibly responsive and manoeuvrable. Oh, and the views aren’t bad from the near-panoramic glass cockpit either. It all makes for an immersive, exhilarating flying experience.
Speed without sacrifice…
Making the e-Go so speedy and responsive was a big engineering challenge. The aeroplane had to be incredibly light, without sacrificing structural strength. Yet SOLIDWORKS made it possible to iterate the design process in a way that continually reduced the weight of the aircraft.
To offer a quick example, Castelli’s design team could model the use of adhesive and import the data in SOLIDWORKS to test how different thicknesses and densities of adhesive affected weight and performance. The result of such measures is an aircraft that weighs just 115 kg and delivers 60 mpg.
Every component earns its keep
As you can imagine, building a light aircraft demands a certain structural efficiency and no wastage. SOLIDWORKS made it possible to strip component parts down to the minimum number in the design stage, and because SOLIDWORKS can simulate so many different materials, the design team could model multiple subsystems (this is an aircraft, after all) and quickly integrate them within the overall system model.
This unique structural efficiency is reflected in the performance.
Building a plane doesn’t have to be rocket science…
Having a great design is one thing. Getting it built to spec is quite another. With SOLIDWORKS it was easy to define material choices and use animated exploded views to show precisely how each component should be manufactured – from wheels to wings. It makes the manufacturing process faster, easier and more cost-efficient.
(You can read about e-Go’s manufacturing process here.)
Ready for market?
The e-Go is now commercially available. In fact there’s already a waiting list on orders as early adopters race to secure a model. Giotto Castelli and E-Go Aeroplanes have changed the rules for amateur aviation. How successful could they be? It seems the sky is the limit.