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E-Fan aircraft crosses the English Channel

This adorable little two-seater isn't about to replace Airbus' airliners, but the E-Fan — a light aircraft powered by lithium-ion batteries and two electric motors — just set a notable aviation milestone by crossing the English Channel. The 36-minute event took place earlier today, departing from Lydd, England and arriving in Calais, France.

Clearly, a 36-minute flight doesn't mean much in the world of modern aviation, but electric aircraft are still very, very early and experimental in their development: NASA is working on one with a bunch of tiny propellers, and the enormous Solar Impulse 2 is currently in the process of circumnavigating the globe over a series of small hops. The English Channel crossing also holds special significance for aviation buffs, as it was considered an enormous challenge in the very earliest days of powered flight — Airbus notes that French aviator Louis Blériot was the first to do it over a century ago in 1909, less than six years after the Wright Flyer's first flight.

These publicity stunts are important for the E-Fan, as Airbus plans to put an updated version of the aircraft into production as soon as 2017. That model will be a side-by-side two-seater (as opposed to the current model's tandem configuration) followed by a four-seater later on.

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