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30 January 2020
30. January 2020 Innovation

Motorsport can be a testbed for electric flight development. Here’s how

Jeff Zaltman offers insight on the galvanising effect of Air Race E

Dr. Sandra Bour Schaeffer (right) – Head of Airbus Group Demonstrators and CEO of ExO Alpha is joined by the Jeff Zaltman, CEO of Air Race E, for the 2019 Dubai Airshow unveiling of the all-electric racing championship’s first aircraft; Airbus is the official founding partner of Air Race E



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ext year, the world’s first electric air racing competition will take to the skies. For Air Race E CEO Jeff Zaltman, this major milestone in motorsport is more than just the latest addition to the list of air racing events: it is an important testbed for the development of electric flight.  

Jeff Zaltman knows a thing or two about organising competitive air racing events. This long-time devoted ambassador for air racing on a global scale has organised at least 15 major international air races, aerobatic championships and other events across nine countries and four continents. His next passion project? Air Race E, the world’s first electric air racing competition of which Airbus is Official Founding Partner.

With Air Race E, Jeff is laser-focused on leveraging the galvanising effect of motorsport to push the development of electric flight to the next level. An ambitious challenge for anyone, but one that Jeff is convinced is necessary to help guide the aerospace industry onto a sustainable path for future generations. 

The world is depending on Airbus and partnerships like ours to guide the aerospace industry onto a sustainable path for generations to come.

Jeff Zaltman, Air Race E CEO

5 questions with Jeff Zaltman, Air Race E CEO

Q. Why did you decide to launch Air Race E?

The idea for Air Race E has evolved in the aviation market over a long period of time, and many people suggested it to me. However, I had always made the assumption that it would be some time off in the future. Little by little, I realised we already had the expertise and technology available to make an electric air race happen. Soon after, I got started working on the race—and called Airbus! Airbus was an obvious choice as a serious partner who could help us really give the project substance and market application.

Q. At what stage of the planning and development phases are you at with Air Race E? Any exciting updates you can share?

We have covered a lot of ground since we first announced Air Race E in 2018. That was accelerated when Airbus joined as Official Founding Partner last year. Since then, many parties have become involved, and hundreds more are taking interest. We have at least eight race teams announced, and we’ll soon announce the locations of the first races. 

Q. This is the first electric air racing competition of its kind in the world. How do you think motorsport can provide a “galvanising effect” for the development of electric flight?

Motorsport, in all its forms, has long been used as a platform for developing technologies and bringing applications to market. Historically, air racing has been integral in aerospace development. For example, the WWII British Spitfire was originally launched as a seaplane racer in the Schneider Trophy during the 1930s. We’re now entering a new heyday in aviation, and air racing can again play a historical role in furthering our engineering ambitions, particularly in electric flight.

Q. How important is electric flight to the future of aviation?

Every day, this topic seems to be gaining more and more importance, whether in the industry, in the media or, frankly, to the ozone layer. The world is depending on Airbus and partnerships like ours to guide the aerospace industry onto a sustainable path for generations to come.

Q. Which milestones are you most looking forward to in 2020?

The first eight race teams are beginning to test their e-racers. This is momentous—eight new electric racing aircraft designs, eight new electric propulsion concepts, and eight new flying electric aircraft! We’ll also start training and testing the planes and pilots in race environments, so no rest in sight for innovation!

Jeff Zaltman - Air Race E CEO.

Jeff Zaltman is CEO of Air Race E, the world’s first all-electric air racing competition. He has worked professionally in the air sports industry for at least 15 years, primarily in air racing. He is recognised internationally as a pioneer in the sport and a world leader in the organisation of air racing events.

Main image: Air Race E CEO Jeff Zaltman & Airbus UpNext CEO Sandra Bour-Schaeffer present the first e-racer at 2019 Dubai Air Show

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