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Prototype Electric Plane Built by Siemens and Magnus Aircraft Crashes in Hungary, Killing Both People on Board

Earlier this year the late pilot had taken our reporter up for a spin in same model, the Magnus eFusion

2 min read
Magnus eFusion
The Magnus eFusion stores lithium-ion batteries in front of the cockpit.
Photo: Siemens

An experimental electric plane built by Hungary’s Magnus Aircraft and Siemens crashed on Thursday near Budapest, killing the pilot and the passenger.

Earlier this year the pilot took me for a 15-minute flight in this model, called the Magnus eFusion. The electric motor and the entire propulsion system are supplied by Siemens. 

“The pilot—who you were flying with—was a good friend of ours; he loved flying the electric aircraft,” says Gergely György Balázs, head of Siemens’s Budapest research outfit. 

The author shown with the pilot (right).The author (left) with the late pilot, János B.Photo: Siemens

János B. (as his name has been given in the Hungarian press) was 61 years old. His passenger, Gábor K., was 41.

Siemens and the Hungarian authorities are each conducting investigations, and according to regulations there will be no announcements until the analysis is further along. Meanwhile, Siemens is grounding the plane.

A local news site report, translated by Google, reports that "The aircraft ignited during the crash, the flames were extinguished by professional firefighters in Pécs and Siklós within a few minutes...." However, AVWeb cites witnesses who saw the aircraft “maneuvering at low altitude before catching fire and crashing in a near vertical dive.” 

If indeed the fire began in the air, and if the airplane was indeed a pure electric version of the eFusion, then one might speculate the problem could have started in the lithium-ion battery pack. Such batteries can undergo thermal runaway, in which one cell suddenly releases a lot of heat, causing neighboring cells to do the same in a chain reaction. Thermal runaway has plagued cellphones, laptops, and e-cigarettes.

Magnus and Siemens are also working on a version of the plane that uses a hybrid diesel-electric design, which had its maiden flight in April. However, from the wording of the statements of Siemens and Magnus Aircraft, it would appear that the crash involved a pure electric version of the plane.

The eFusion is a semi-aerobatic plane, and aerobatics in general can be risky. Just six weeks ago an experienced aerobatic pilot was killed in a practice flight before an air show in China.

The Conversation (0)

Economics Drives Ray-Gun Resurgence

Laser weapons, cheaper by the shot, should work well against drones and cruise missiles

4 min read
In an artist’s rendering, a truck is shown with five sets of wheels—two sets for the cab, the rest for the trailer—and a box on the top of the trailer, from which a red ray is projected on an angle, upward, ending in the silhouette of an airplane, which is being destroyed

Lockheed Martin's laser packs up to 300 kilowatts—enough to fry a drone or a plane.

Lockheed Martin

The technical challenge of missile defense has been compared with that of hitting a bullet with a bullet. Then there is the still tougher economic challenge of using an expensive interceptor to kill a cheaper target—like hitting a lead bullet with a golden one.

Maybe trouble and money could be saved by shooting down such targets with a laser. Once the system was designed, built, and paid for, the cost per shot would be low. Such considerations led planners at the Pentagon to seek a solution from Lockheed Martin, which has just delivered a 300-kilowatt laser to the U.S. Army. The new weapon combines the output of a large bundle of fiber lasers of varying frequencies to form a single beam of white light. This laser has been undergoing tests in the lab, and it should see its first field trials sometime in 2023. General Atomics, a military contractor in San Diego, is also developing a laser of this power for the Army based on what’s known as the distributed-gain design, which has a single aperture.

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