Angels give wings to e-Go aeroplanes
A pioneering new light aircraft company is primed for global take-off thanks to investment of more than £500,000 from the Martlet fund and high-flying angels in Cambridge and the surrounding area.
e-Go – based in Cambridge UK – has inspired the backing of 20 seasoned investors, including the angel fund launched by Marshall of Cambridge in association with local entrepreneur Peter Cowley.
Its aim is to create an exceptionally stylish, and exciting leisure aircraft – the Apple of the skies.
North America and China are likely to emerge as the two major growth markets for the new, super-light canard aircraft which weighs in at just 115 kg (253.5lbs) – including the engine.
The plane will be available complete or in kit form once e-Go hits the production line in 2012.
The brainwave of Cambridge-based aeronautical engineers, Tony Bishop and Giotto Castelli, the e-Go is designed to meet the recent de-regulated rules in the UK, as well as more regulated markets in the US and Europe.
The partners are well advanced in building a prototype single-seater at the e-Go Centre in Conington, Cambridgeshire.
Extensive flight testing will be conducted in the summer of 2012, by which time e-Go plans to have set up its fully-fledged production facility in the Cambridge area. Two and four-seater aircraft will also go onto the production line.
The company is looking for an edge-of-airfield site locally so that it can keep production and manufacture close to the Cambridge design capability.
Tony Bishop said the Institute for Manufacturing at Cambridge University had generously devised a factory lay-out for the business; e-Go is also working with the university’s Department of Engineering on ongoing development.
Castelli focuses on the design side. A practising aeronautical engineer, he has recent experience at Marshall Aerospace, Magellan, Pilatus and J&C Engineering so has worked on a variety of modern aircraft including the Horizon bizjet, the Pilatus PC-21 advanced trainer and the airbus 340 and 380.
Bishop mainly looks after business strategy, marketing and production. He was an aeronautical engineer – initially in the Future Projects Office at Hawker Siddeley Hatfield where airbuses, 146s and VTOL civil planes were being invented – and later at British Aerospace Civil Division HQ, Kingston.
Together they built and now operate a Dyn’Aero MCR01 BanBi (G-DECO) – the most fun and performance they could find from 100hp – and decided that de-regulation provided a commercial opportunity for a new, super-lightweight, eco-friendly aircraft.
Bishop told Business Weekly that the company had benefited from tremendous goodwill from a small army of expert volunteers. The university has also assisted with wind tunnel work while Lola Cars in Huntingdon has donated CFD services, particularly aimed at ensuring that the cooling of the aircraft’s Rotron Wankel engine is optimised. Several young engineers from Marshall Aerospace have helped with the design and build.
The engine is being developed in the UK by Rotron, who are pioneering lightweight (half the weight of a four-stroke), but very reliable Wankel engines.
A major task has been the development of the structural technologies used - blending the latest composite and foam materials to create the lightest possible aircraft body.
Close attention has been paid to the aerodynamics to eliminate drag and the e-Go will have the lightest, most responsive handling – it will handle like a fighter in pilot parlance – and impressive rate of climb.
The e-Go is being designed using a 3D computer package (SolidWorks), so that patterns can be accurately machined and many components can be accurately cut using water-jets or lasers.
The aerodynamic surfaces have a thin skin, with separate ribs and spars to which they are glued. This as all stiffened by a foam core which is cut with a computer-controlled hot-wire machine. Moulded parts are made from pre-peg carbon cloth to minimise resin weight. Frames are a carbon/foam sandwich. With this the designers can easily (and cheaply) remove all excess material to minimise weight.
Bishop said: “The design model we have developed is very lean so production will not be overly labour-intensive. We will be creating some hi-tech and other semi-skilled jobs but we can keep manufacturing cost and ongoing overheads pretty low.
“The ideal for us is to keep production close to the Cambridge design nervecentre. We believe the commercial prospects for the e-Go – in kit or complete form – are exciting. North America, now, and China in the future are anticipated to be our really big markets.
“With the stylish look of the aircraft – inside and out – the super slick handling and flight experience, we have set out to make the e-Go the Apple of the skies. It will look and feel absolutely gorgeous.”
• To find out more – go to www.e-go.me