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This summer students at the Norwich International Aviation Academy (IAA) will be among the first in the country to learn about electric flight. At Norwich Airport, they will get the chance to build the first ever British electric light aircraft.
The plane will be based on a prototype which has been built by NUNCATS, at their base at Old Buckenham Airfield, where it is being prepared now for test flights.

The project is a new partnership: NUNCATS provide the design and specialist support; the IAA at Norwich City College will provide the students; and NORSE and Saxon Air Flight Support will provide workshop and airside space for building and testing at the airport.
The project is the idea of Tim Bridge, a founder, and Engineering Director of NUNCATS, who said:

“This is a great step forward for sustainable, economical electric flight, as well as for the careers of the students. In the longer term we hope programs like this will allow many more affordable light aircraft to be built in the UK and around the world.”

Norse Group Aviation Academy Manager, Alan Rampling, said:

“This is a fantastic opportunity for students to get hands on experience, assembling, functionally testing, and witnessing their aircraft being flight tested. This zero-emissions aircraft project has already been a catalyst in bringing local aviation expertise to the academy. The aim will be to development a ‘centre of excellence’ in electric aircraft training, ensuring the region is at the forefront of green technology in aviation’.”

Alex Durand, SaxonAir CEO comments:

“We’re delighted to support an initiative which electrifies aviation as well as aircraft engineering careers”.

Saxon Air are also planning to instal a solar powered charging station at Norwich Airport, based on the system already operating at Old Buckenham. This will allow the aircraft to charge independently of the electricity grid, using only solar energy. NUNCATS are developing similar charging stations around the country to allow longer flights.

There is worldwide interest in low carbon flight, and a range of firms are experimenting with electric aircraft. But most focus on expensive, high-end designs. The NUNCATS plane is different: designed to be cheap and simple, for use by aid agencies in the developing world and by hobby flyers.

The company’s name explains its principles – No Unnecessary Novelty Community Air Transport System (NUNCATS). Rather than design something entirely new and untried, they are putting together a set of components – a kit form airframe, electric motor, batteries, and charging equipment – all of them already in use for other purposes. This speeds development time and reduces costs. As a Community Interest Company, they will plough back all profits into development and keeping the price down for aid agencies, and medical and rescue agencies in the developing world.

The International Aviation Academy trains young engineers to work on conventional big commercial aircraft. But electric power is likely to play a major part in aviation in the future. This project, a British first, gives young people in Norfolk a chance to start their careers, not only building a real plane, but to get in on the ground of the technology of the future.

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