Yates seeks world record affirmations

Intrepid pilot continues to land on his feet despite goal-thwarting hurdles

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Yates seeks world record affirmations Electric aerospace pioneer Chip Yates is working this week with international officials to verify his record-making feats at Inyokern Airport.

Although China Lake captured the data verifying his 202-mile-per-hour flight last summer in his battery-powered Long EZ, a surprise hitch during Monday’s attempt prevented three of those records from being certified.

“My team has something called Chip’s Law. It started as a joke, but we see it exhibit itself over and over,” said Yates. “It says that ultimately we will achieve our goals — but only after overcoming every conceivable obstacle first!”

Yates mounted a data-collection device to his craft that would record speed and altitude and that would be turned over to officials of the Federation Aeronatique Internationale.

During Monday’s flight, Yates took off from Inyokern Airport and was able to climb at 2,000 feet per minute at less than full throttle from the airport all the way to 14,500 feet, where he held his altitude for 90 seconds, thereby fulfilling the requirements for three world records and demonstrating an astonishing gasoline-beating performance of his electric airplane’s powertrain system.

The official records he is seeking to certify this week include:

• Speed over a five-kilometer course

• Speed over a 15-kilometer course

• Maximum altitude

• Altitude in horizontal flight

• Time to climb to 3,000 meters

Because the sanctioning body for international aviation milestones is headquartered in Europe, all records are measured on the metric system.

“We broke the three records we went after this morning,” Yates said Monday. “What happened was the electromagnetic interference from the motor erased all our flight data.”

Yates — whose whirlwind and record-setting careers in electric motorcycle racing and electric flight have seen many setbacks — took Monday’s incident in stride.

“That’s the nature of experimental flight. You don’t always know what works until you try it,” he said.

“What keeps us going is that we have seen when it does work.” It’s those history-making moments that propel the team forward, he said.

Yates’ team worked all night Monday and succeeded in eliminating the interference. When he took off Tuesday at 6 a.m., the FAI official was present to observe the record attempt for speed over a five-mile course.

During that morning flight, Yates’ first of four passes saw him flying at 200 miles per hour at 500 feet above the ground, using only 60 percent of his available power. At that time a network communication failure onboard the aircraft caused a complete lack of power.

Yates declared an emergency, pitched upward to gain as much altitude as possible and set his sights on a dirt road below him for the forced landing. Fortunately, Yates’ chase plane pilot, Zach Reeder, was able to advise Yates that Inyokern’s Runway 10 appeared to be possible if he turned around and glided back toward the runway.

With help from Reeder, Yates was able to optimize his glide speed and barely made the runway before executing a picture-perfect, smooth landing on solid ground. Today’s deadstick landing by Yates is his second in the last year of flight testing — the other occurred when he first set the record last year.

The problem with the onboard Control Area Network device that caused the emergency landing will take about a week to fix, said Yates. But he said he will be back after that to attempt validation of his records.

“This is exactly why I insist on flying with a chase plan anytime we are doing something new or risky,” said Yates. “Zach saved my life today for sure, and when I don’t use him, I turn to test pilot Axel Alvarez, who is actually on the board of Inyokern Airport, to be in charge of my well-being and safety of flight.”

Yates’ feats continue to draw attention from the national media, as well as local enthusiasts. His operation at Hangar 3 is frequently visited by the IYK regulars — from professional to hobbyist.

Others in the community are cheering his record attempts, as well as the synergy he is generating in the effort to establish IYK for a hub of aerospace innovation.

“Chip Yates and his team of professional engineers are not just about setting records, they are about pushing the limits,” said Eileen Shibley, who helped recruit Yates to IYK as part of the Cal UAS Portal team.

“They are about innovation in the truest sense of the word. They are about discovering and exploring the art of the possible.

“It’s Chip’s brand of tenacity, perseverance and wonder that was and is shared by every pioneer in the industry and in our amazing aerospace valley. And Chip chooses Inyokern because it’s the right place to make these leaps in human accomplishment possible.”

Story First Published: 2013-08-14