Records set at IYK become official

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Records set at IYK become officialWorld records set last year at Inyokern Airport by pioneer in electric flight Chip Yates were ratified last year by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, ce-menting IYK’s place in aviation history as the site of eight of Yates’ 11 world-record achievements for speed and altitude in an electric plane.

“Chip is one of the most determined and energetic people I have had the privilege of knowing,” said IYK General Manager Scott Seymour. “Whenever he is out here, you can just feel a difference in the level of energy and activity. I congratulate him for everything he has achieved, and am glad that our valley was able to play a role in something that has gained international attention.”

Seymour said that Yates is one in a series of distinguished aviators who have flown out of Inyokern. “I’m told even Neal Armstrong flew a glider out of here. And of course we have Steve Fossett who set a series of records here in the early 2000s.

“You look at our runways, our open space, our clear skies practically year round and you can see why people choose Inyokern to stage these kinds of operations. Slowly but surely our well-kept secret in the aviation world is gaining more attention.”

Before Yates began pushing boundaries in aviation in late 2011, he was breaking records on his electrically powered motorcycle on the racing circuit.

He first flew into Inyokern in early 2012 when he was looking for a space to develop his electrically-converted Long EZ (designed by aviation legend Burt Rutan of Mojave), and ultimately took up residence in Hangar 3 as his new base of operations.

In a whirlwind week in July of that year, he received his pilot’s license, flew the Long EZ for the first time and captured his first world record for speed by topping 200 miles per hour (a record that would subsequently be broken by Yates himself many times over).

Yates went on to have his records witnessed, recorded and verified by an FAI official — again, out of IYK. Each time those attempts were accompanied by documentarians and journalists who have logged Yates adventures in television and print media.

During one of Yates record attempts — each of which are tracked by China Lake range employees — it was discovered that the extremely low heat signature of electric-powered aircraft made his technology a good candidate for a stealth drone. He is now working on a hybrid UAV design known as the Stealth Arrow.

Meanwhile, Yates’ exploits have stirred up even the gas-powered aircraft community, the bulk of which he can outperform in his electric aircraft.

“With these records, we are continuing to show the world that electric vehicles don’t have to be slow and boring,” he said. “No one imagined just a few years ago that a plane powered by nothing but batteries could go 220 miles per hour and outclimb Cessnas and Pipers and those kind of long-standing gasoline airplanes!”

Additional information about Yates’ achievements is available at www.flightofthecentury.com.

Story First Published: 2014-07-30