During a flight that only lasted about eight minutes, the SkySpark managed to set a world record for the fastest speed attained by an electric airplane. The craft, piloted by astronaut (STS-75) Maurizo Cheli, achieved an airspeed of 155 mph (250 km/h) last week at the World Air Games in Turin, Italy. Specifically modified for the project, the battery-powered Pioneer Alpi 300 is thought to be capable of 186 mph (300 km/h).
In partnership with engineering firm Digisky and the Turin Polytechnic University, the plane has been in development since September of 2007 when successful flights of a fuel cell powered craft were completed. It is equipped with a liquid-cooled 65 kW Valentino synchronous motor by Sicme Motori that weighs in at 55 lbs (25 kg) and powered by lithium polymer batteries. The success of the flight is said by the SkySpark team's website to be only an intermediate goal. They will next re-visit their past and concentrate their efforts on a "hydrogen fuel cells powered engine." Hit the jump for video of some friendly Italian sky flying action. Although the sound is missing for the first minute and a half, when it does come on, you'll notice the inside of the plane is eerily quiet. Bonus video from an earlier unveiling (in Italian) has some shots of the craft with the hood up. Thanks to "mister nomer" for the tip!