Weather permitting, at 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 21, Gary Davis, a Greenville, S.C., pilot, will attempt to set a world altitude record for a particular class of electric aircraft.
Davis has been in love with aviation ever since he was a Boy Scout progressing towards Eagle Scout. In need of more Boy Scout badges, he approached a neighbor who was an aviation badge instructor. This led to a trip to a local grass strip airport and his first flight.
“For 39 years, I have been flying gliders and various type aircraft. It has been mostly smooth sailing,” said Davis. “The only inconvenience I’ve encountered was power failures with my first ultralight. It then became a glider and I didn’t have 100% control of where I would land. It can land in a very short space so finding a spot wasn’t too hard. Most of the time it worked out fine, but one time back in 1981 I had to land on Clemson’s football practice field. It was during the game between Wake Forest and Clemson. On that Halloween day Clemson beat Wake Forrest 82 to 24! The police took my name and contact information, but I never heard from them again.”
“Back then, I flew a gas powered model. I switched over to electric about two years ago because it is a little less noisy to run, quite a bit cheaper to fuel, and is the green thing to do,” he continued. “Flying for one hour on an electric battery costs me about 30 cents worth of energy. Gas power would be about $6.”
Davis’ electric trike can fly at a cruising speed of about 28 mph. It takes Davis about 40 minutes to assemble the craft and fully charged it can run about an hour, if he conserves energy and glides it, when possible.
On Saturday, Davis hopes to catch some thermal currents and achieve as high an altitude as he can. This will set the world the record since no one has tried it before. His guess? Anywhere from 300 feet to two miles up.
If achieved, his flight will go on record with The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI – The World Air Sports Federation). Founded in 1905, this non-governmental and non-profit international organization established rules for the control and certification of world aeronautical records, of which it keeps, along with preforming many other functions.
“One of aviation’s futures lies in electric powered aircraft, and many ground-breaking steps have been made in motors, batteries and aircraft structures toward that end. Electric aircraft have been flying for several years now and have been improved and refined for various applications including Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), Experimental and Light Sport passenger aircraft,” said Mark D. Spang, a pilot and part owner of USAeroTech Institute, a professional aircraft maintenance training school at the Greenville Downtown Airport (GMU).
Davis might not fit most people’s idea of an experimental aircraft pilot. His “day job” is the managing director of Nachman,Norwood & Parrott, a wealth management and retirement plan consulting firm in Greenville. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Clemson University and serves as treasurer for the Rotary Club of Greenville East.
The general public is invited to watch his flight from the Runway Cafe or free aviation-themed community park next to it.
GMU is the busiest general aviation airport in South Carolina and is a self-sufficient entity with financial strength that doesn’t rely on local taxpayers for funding. GMU is home to Greenville Jet Center, the largest FBO in the state., as well as more than 25 other aviation-related businesses creating 453 jobs that annually contribute more than $35.2 million to the local economy.