Can a modern electric aircraft be inspired by the past? Team AllWays Air Racing certainly thinks so. The team is setting its sights on accelerating the development of electric flight technology at Air Race E, and inspiring more women and girls to enter air races.
To say that Casey Erickson is an aviation enthusiast would be an understatement. The captain of Team AllWays Air Racing is an experienced aerobatics and race pilot, helming everything from gliders and cargo planes to helicopters and airships. Today, she and her team are busy crafting a custom aircraft for Air Race E based on the design of a home-built Formula One racing aircraft. With a throwback name and retro paint scheme, the aircraft is a very modern tribute to racing machines of the past, which they hope will push the envelope of electric flight.
Racing pushes the envelope of innovation. It serves as a conduit for new and untried technologies that can trickle down to aviation at large.
- Casey Erickson, Captain of Team AllWays Air Racing
5 questions with Casey Erickson, Captain of Team AllWays Air Racing
Q. Why did your team decide to enter Air Race E?
Initially, we were working on a new aircraft that could compete in International Formula One (IF1) air racing. But the model that we ultimately decided to build seemed like a better fit for an electric motor due to the excellent aerodynamics. Our original plan was to try and break National Aeronautic Association (NAA) electric aircraft speed records during the off-season. But then we heard about Air Race E. We signed up almost immediately!
Q. Can you give us some insight on the aircraft you’re currently working on? What is your approach?
After talking to a number of different aircraft designers, we decided to go with a derivative of the Snoshoo (i.e. an American home-built Formula One racing aircraft that was designed by Alan VanMeter and A.J. Smith). Even though the early design had been around for some time, no one had built the first-generation Snoshoo SR1 and actually raced it prior to 2018. We conducted some major redesign to the fuselage and wing, including an unprecedented amount of computational fluid analysis for an IF1 aircraft. We named the aircraft Erickson Special ER-1 (Erickson Race Model 1), which is how pilots named their racing machines in the 1930s. And the paint scheme is a throwback to the iconic 1970s-era Porsche 917 that raced at Le Mans. We want to pay tribute to those that came before us, while producing a thoroughly modern aircraft.
Q. What sets your team apart in this race?
Our engineer (Jon Latall) and the build team (A.J. Smith, Craig Catto and Bobby Graham, with a lot of technical advice from Justin Meaders), are top notch. On a personal level, I have a fierce desire to compete and win the inaugural Air Race E competition!
Q. For you, what is the most exciting aspect of the race?
It’s the thrill and adventure of racing aircraft, especially in different locations around the world. In addition, I hope to inspire women and girls to chase their dreams. Unfortunately, very few women have raced airplanes. I would love to see that change with more women entering air races.
Q. How important is electric flight to the future of aviation?
Electric flight will be one of many ways to help reduce our carbon footprint. Racing pushes the envelope of innovation. It serves as a conduit for new and untried technologies that can trickle down to aviation at large because it helps us to learn from our mistakes, and find what works and what doesn’t. Engineering is an iterative process, and racing speeds up those iterations. That’s a great thing for all of us!
Casey Erickson is captain of Team AllWays Air Racing, a participating team in Air Race E, which will become the world’s first all-electric airplane race when it launches its inaugural series of international races in 2020. The demand for speed, performance and power management under the rigors of a competitive race environment provides the perfect platform for the development and promotion of cleaner, faster and more technologically advanced electric motors. Airbus is the Official Founding Partner of the series.