19th March 2018.
(text by Michael Coates)

“Our ALPHA Electro’s have arrived” was the fist statement by CALSTART’s Joseph Oldham as the trucks pulled up to the car park of Fresno’s Chandler Airport.
At the exact same time it started raining (of course) and it would continue on and off until the aircraft were unloaded and in the hanger when the clouds would finally disappear and it would become sunny!

The historic Fresno Chandler terminal building, home to our ALPHA Electro Aircraft Operations

Two 18-wheeler trucks, each with a 40-foot shipping container rolled through the gate at Fresno Chandler Executive Airport with four (4) Pipistrel Alpha Electro’s, four chargers, and a Pipistrel X-ALPHA simulator destined for Cypress College in L.A.
It took a crew of five or six volunteers only 2 hours to remove the aircraft and chargers from the shipping containers mounted on the back of the trucks. Using a flatbed tow truck as an unloading ramp, we backed up to the containers so we could roll the planes and chargers out, drive forward and then roll the plane down off the tow truck onto the ground and repeat.

Did I mention how slippery the flatbed was in the rain…. all the oil from wrecked cars on the tray bed made for a slippery time unloading, but it was completed in the end without injury.

The single biggest collection of Flying Electric Aircraft in the one location at one time.

After removing all the plastic wrapping it took about 10 minutes per plane to install the wings and horizontal stabilizers. The way Pipistrel designed the planes makes installation of the wings an easy process, especially with all of our helpers on-hand.
Michael Coates, the master distributor for Pipistrel USA, was joined by Sabi Apai, the Pipistrel dealer for California, who both helped guide the unloading and assembly process and were a great help!

The planes had been in the containers at sea for 3 months due to incorrect shipping routing by CMA-CGM (dig intended and no apology from them received) where they endlessly sailed the worlds oceans and yet, the batteries were still at from 43% – 53% State of Charge when unloaded. All aircraft were charged to the recommended resting charge of 60-65% the next day.
During the shipping a hold-down bolt can loose and a tire went flat. This caused damage to a rim and a tire, but these were replaced and the aircraft completed their airworthiness inspections on Wednesday, March 21. Now insured and registered with the airworthiness process complete, we are ready for the first flights and an exciting future in the Central Valley.

Pumping air into the tires and finalizing the aircraft assembly


The Sustainable Aviation Project is a public-private collaboration to reduce the cost of flight training through the use of all-electric general aviation airplanes.

Project partners include the City of Reedley, City of Mendota, Reedley College, a local flying service, the Fresno Business Council, and the CALSTART San Joaquin Valley Clean Transportation Center.
The initial spark for the idea came to Joseph Oldham while nurturing relationships between businesses and government to get zero-emission buses into public transit fleets. A pilot for over 40 years, Oldham approached Richard Duncan, manager of Fresno Chandler Executive Airport and together they began brainstorming how a network of chargers located up and down the San Joaquin Valley could support the operation of a small fleet of Pipistrel Alpha Electro aircraft for flight training operations. More conversations with other interested parties, long nights writing grant proposals, presentations to various city boards and government groups, and the Sustainable Aviation Project was born!

“We ended up with a unique public-private collaboration … to prove electric airplanes can dramatically cut the cost of flight training and venture beyond the traffic pattern. The planes are planned to be used to provide flight training for disadvantaged youth in the San Joaquin Valley with a primary focus on youth from the City of Reedley and the City of Mendota, both rural farming communities with high unemployment levels. We have set up a new non-profit corporation, New Vision Aviation that will provide the flight training, operate, and maintain the aircraft on behalf of the two cities and we have just started our training programs after getting our instructors validated on the aircraft. ”


  • Reedley Municipal Airport (O32)
  • William Robert Johnston Municipal Airport in Mendota (M90)
  • Fresno Chandler Executive Airport (KFCH)
  • Fresno Yosemite International Airport (KFAT)

A tired and wet team, ready for lunch at the completion of assembly of aircraft number 1 – Just 3 more to go.

More information: joldham@calstart.org


In late March we had the opportunity to deliver the second X-ALPHA Virtual Reality trainer into Los Angeles region. Our first virtual reality trainer has been operating at Compton Airport for several months and this delivery to Cypress College is the second of many more heading into the Los Angeles and Central Valley regions.

Installing the X-ALPHA Virtual Reality simulator is a breeze after we managed to carry it up several flights of stairs (with the help of several students) because we missed out on using the service elevator by about half an inch.
After unpacking and installing the systems that have been removed for transit we nervously turned on the power switch and to my surprise (because it meant we had everything plugged in correctly) everything fired up and within minutes we had staff and students in the simulator with a grin from ear-to-ear.

Congratulations to Cypress College and their supporters for installing this amazing X-ALPHA Virtual Reality Simulator. This will be followed up with several Pipistrel ALPHA Electro aircraft in the near future.
More information about the X-ALPHA Virtual Reality simulator can be found on the following link

The Pipistrel X-ALPHA Virtual Reality simulator takes pride of place in the central walkway and auditorium at Cypress College

California dealer Sabi Apai congratulates Captain Ed Valdez who heads up the schools simulator and other programs. He has personally designed some of the almost 50 simulators which we saw at Cypress College

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