| Airventure has been the site of a great many aviation firsts. This year was no exception as Csaba Lemak of became the first pilot to fly an electric powered, paraglider at the show. |
I first met Csaba about 10 years ago when he and a friend showed up at my field with a trike that they had just finished building from raw materials. They were looking for a place to fly it.
I hadn't seen him for several years but again ran into him at this years Airventure. But while he still had his trike, he hadn't been doing much flying on it since his new love, powered paragliding had entered his life.
He got involved in paragliding when he saw a group of powered paragliders flying near St. Catherines Ontario. One thing led to another and within two weeks he had learned to fly and the third he had had purchased his own powered paraglider.
Csaba is also a radio controlled aircraft enthusiast and would regularly bring his unit out to the flying field to fly before or after a flight in his ppg. One fall day the battery for starting his paraglider was dead. Not one to simply pack up and go home he decided to see if the battery operating this radio controlled craft had enough power to turn his ppg engine over.
It did, which then begged the question if this little battery could be used to start a gas powered engine, why couldn't it be used to power an electric motor. Over the winter and into the spring he traveled to a number of powered parachute gatherings. During one of these he came upon an engineer. He brought forward his idea of an electric powered paraglider, and was told "it couldn't be done." The engineer was so sure of it that he and Csaba after a night of partying made a bet.
Well if there is one thing I learned about Csaba was don't ever tell him that "it can't be done," because he will find a way to get it done, and when he does it, it will be done quickly, and professionally!
With no experience in the field he first had to find out what he needed. His research over the next months told him that he would need an electric motor of about 17 HP, a variable speed controller, and a light weight but powerful battery source.
He was able to find his engine and speed controller in the radio controlled field but battery power was a problem. Unable to get any help from North American suppliers he contact a helpful and enthusiast battery manufacturer in Korea.
After explaining what he was trying to do the Korean manufacturer shipped him out the 120 batteries he needed to make up his battery pack.
His next step was to design the paraglider engine airframe, and reduction drive. This took about a week to design and three months to complete. In order to spin a prop efficiently a 3.6 to 1 reduction drive was designed and manufactured. The motor he is using is estimated to be putting out about 17 HP. With his current battery pack this gives him about 35 minutes of flying time.
Did I mention Csaba is a perfectionist? While most people would be happy with just being able to do something like this. He is already in the process of redesigning. He is now working on a new direct drive motor power pack, which weighs almost FIVE POUNDS and will put out over 20 HP. This new electric motor should also be 30% more efficient. His new controller will give even better battery economy and new 40 amp and 70 amp batteries will provide better power at less weight.
This should take his current flight times from 35 minutes to nearly 2 HOURS!!!
Oh did I mention that there is no pollution, vibration and little if any NOISE generated by the electric motor powering Csaba's powered paraglider. The next time I see him I'll check to see what the estimated TBO is on his engine and how much it will cost to rebuild his engine that should normally sell for about $500.00!
Probably $5.00 or $10.00 for a set of brushes! I'll also have to check and see if his engineer friend paid up or not.