Florida Tech flies, owns first U.S. electric plane

Florida Tech alumnus and former associate dean Isaac Silver stands in front of the Pipistrel Velis Electro electric airplane.

Florida Tech is the first American university to own and fly an electric plane, thanks to the generosity of the Emil Buehler Perpetual Trust.

The Pipistrel Velis Electro purchased via the Trust recently took its maiden flight.

The two-seater — the first electric powered airplane certified in Europe — had not been flown in the United States until now. It is awaiting U.S. certification, so Florida Tech is flying it under the experimental category.

Florida Tech alumnus and former associate dean Isaac Silver was the pilot. He flew for 22 minutes, using about a third of the aircraft’s battery capacity. Operating cost: $1.03. The Velis Electro has zero emissions and reduced noise.

Offering a look into the future of general and commercial aviation, the aircraft is also of interest to the Federal Aviation Administration. The federal agency is in the process of awarding Florida Tech an $85,000 contract to provide data from the first 50 flight hours of the Velis Electro.

The Buehler Perpetual Trust has long been a generous supporter of Florida Tech aviation, giving $3.7 million toward the establishment of the Emil Buehler Center for Aviation Training and Research and the Flight Test Engineering program.

"We are so grateful to donors like the Buehler Trust, who help us remain on the cutting edge of aviation education," said Gary Grant, the senior vice president for development.