Electric history takes flight in Washington: Today So Far
- The test flight for an all-electric airplane, designed by a Western Washington company, was a success.
- Seattle Library employees will now be able to administer Narcan.
- Man gets five years in prison after scamming hundreds of thousands of dollars from Washington's unemployment department.
This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for September 27, 2022.
Electric vehicle history was made in Washington state this week. An electric airplane named Alice made its maiden flight out of Moses Lake on Tuesday. Electric aircraft have flown before, but this plane is designed for commercial use by a Washington-based company. In other words, Alice is meant to carry passengers from place-to-place.
The all-electric flight is impressive, especially considering the shift to electric vehicles we are in the midst of. But there is still more work to be done before you can buy a ticket. Eviation is the Western Washington-based company that makes Alice. It's waiting for a few advancements in battery technology to get a 200-mile range out of the plane. It also carries nine passengers. So this plane will be good for trips between Seattle and Portland. Think of this plane like Sandpiper Air in the 1990s hit sitcom "Wings" (kids, "Wings" was like a prequel to "Monk").
As Tom Banse reports, this is a significant step in our evolving travel infrastructure, but it won't likely be the only one. Biofuels, for example, are also being looked at as a more climate-friendly option (compared to jet fuels) for air travel. Remember when I wrote about Washington's potential to grow sugar kelp? Kelp can also be used to make biofuels. Read the full story on this evolution here.
Staff at Seattle Public Libraries will now be allowed to administer Narcan to patrons suspected of overdosing on opioids. As KUOW's Diana Opong reports, the library had a previous policy barring staff from using the overdose-reversing drug. Instead, they were instructed to call 911. After staff prompted officials to review the policy (and someone looked into the legal liability of it all), staff will now be allowed to take action themselves. Read more here.
One final thing: Remember how scammers pounced on Washington's Unemployment Security Department in the early days of the pandemic? They got away with millions. One such person just got five years in prison for the scam, among other crimes. Abidemi Rufai, 45, is a Nigerian citizen who pleaded guilty to federal charges of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in the spring. Rufai used stolen identities to file fraudulent applications for economic relief when disasters struck the USA. The Department of Justice says he did the same con after Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. He hit up Washington state for unemployment relief when Covid struck and got more than $350,000. Read more here.
AS SEEN ON KUOW
Passengers board the Amtrak Cascades at King Street Station in Seattle on Monday, September 26, 2022. The Amtrak Cascades train route from Seattle to Vancouver, B.C. resumed this week for the first time in more than two years. While the border has been open to cars and buses for months, Monday’s train trip was the first since the pandemic began. (KUOW)
DID YOU KNOW?
Electric airplanes may sound like futuristic tech, but electric-powered flight has been with us for generations. It first emerged in the early days of flight back in the 1800s.
We often think of the "first flight" as that famous trip taken by the Wright brothers in 1907. And if we're talking about the principles of lift, etc. then yes, that was the first flight. But before that, humans were getting off the ground in hot air balloons and even airships (like a Zeppelin). In the 1800s, people started putting various types of propulsion on these airships and electric motors were among them. The first all-electric flight on an airship was taken on Oct. 8, 1883 in France.
In 1917, an Austro-Hungarian company invented an electric-powered helicopter. Batteries were not a problem for this aircraft since its motor was plugged into a long extension cord. That motor, however, burned out pretty fast and didn't hold up in the long run.
The same engineering problems that plagued the early age of flight are the same that modern engineers are aiming to overcome — the heavy weight of batteries, and increasing energy storage capacity for the vehicles, thus increasing their range. But tech has improved since then and there has been some chatter about bringing airships back for short-range operations.
ALSO ON OUR MINDS
After two years of pandemic closures, audiences are back at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Founded in 1935, it is one of the oldest and largest non-profit theaters in the country. But things aren't the same as they were during the pre-pandemic 2019 season.