ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) – The price of learning how to fly may be coming down and apparently not soon enough.READ MORE: Debris, Rising Water Rush Along Black Creek As Flash Flood Warnings Plague Glen Haven, Cameron Peak Fire Burn Area
The aviation industry has been dealing with a pilot shortage. Right now, the price to learn how to fly is up to $15,000. But with the development of a solar-electric plane, the projected cost is about $5,000.
The plane is called the Sun Flyer and it could be called the Prius of the sky. Solar panels will be attached to the top of the wings, sending power to the battery stored behind the nose propeller. That will mean minimal engine noise, unlike the conventional small plane that interrupted the introduction of the Sun Flyer Wednesday morning at Centennial Airport.
“The airplane is so quiet,” said George Bye, CEO of Aero Electric Aircraft Corp.
“Don’t they need to see you coming like a Prius?” CBS4’s Howard Nathan asked.
Bye responded with a hearty laugh and said, “Well of course that’s why we have lights.”
Bye is building the solar-electric two-seater in a Centennial Airport hangar. It’s designed to make learning how to fly affordable.READ MORE: CDOT Says Drivers Should Pack A Few Extra Things While Traveling This Summer
“This is going to make an airplane available for much, much less than it costs now,” said flight instructor Robert Stedman.
Stedman says half of student pilots quit because they can’t afford to pay for the fuel.
Bye, the plane’s developer ,wants to eliminate the dropouts.
“It’s about $50 or so of aviation gasoline per flight hour, as compared to about $1 of electricity,” Bye said.
By the end of the summer the prototype is expected to be flying above Centennial Airport, and you might even say to yourself, “Did I hear it coming?”
Plans also call for a production line. At a minimum the company wants to begin building 60 Sun Flyers at Centennial Airport.
The flight time using the solar panels is three hours.MORE NEWS: Company Says GPS Showed Where Stolen Truck Was Yet Victims Say Aurora Police Showed Little Interest
Howard Nathan is a veteran newsman. Decades later, he still enjoys writing a clever sentence, asking the tough question and talking to people in Colorado. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Howard and read his bio.