Green Flight Challenge Down To Four Teams

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By Wednesday, only four of the original 13 contenders were still in the running for the $1.65 million NASA prize purse in the Green Flight Challenge. The event, which is ongoing in Santa Rosa, Calif., through the weekend, has eliminated all the contenders except PhoEnix, Pipistrel-USA, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's EcoEagle, and e-Genius. All met a noise level no greater than 78 dBA at full-power takeoff, measured from 250 feet away. "This is the dawn of electric flight, right here, right now," Mark Moore, an aerospace engineer with NASA, told the Sonoma County Press-Democrat. "This is a Lindbergh moment."

On Tuesday, the teams completed a 200-mile cross-country flight, with the goal of achieving an average speed of 100 mph, burning no more than one gallon of gas (or its equivalent) per passenger. Wednesday, the teams will analyze their data and plan their strategy for Thursday, when they are scheduled to fly 200 miles again at the same efficiency standard while trying to fly as fast as possible. Pipistrel's entry, the G4, is a four-seat, twin-fuselage electric motorglider. The PhoEnix, from Phoenix Air, is a two-seat electric motorglider. ERAU's EcoEagle is a a modified Stemme motorglider. The e-Genius is a two-seat electric-powered airplane, sponsored by Airbus and designed by Eric Raymond, known for the Sunseeker solar-powered sailplanes.