By Mary Grady, Contributing editor
First place in NASA's Green Flight Challenge went to Pipistrel-USA, for a prize of $1.35 million, and the second-place prize of $120,000 went to team eGenius, NASA announced on Monday. The prize purse was the biggest ever awarded for an aviation competition, according to NASA. To win, the aircraft had to fly 200 miles in less than two hours and use less than one gallon of fuel per occupant, or the equivalent in electricity. Pipistrel's Taurus G4 achieved fuel efficiency of 403 passenger miles per gallon at a speed of 107 mph. The results show that "battery-powered electric flight is feasible for general aviation aircraft," according to Pipistrel team leader Jack Langelaan.
"NASA congratulates Pipistrel-USA.com for proving that ultra-efficient aviation is within our grasp," said Joe Parrish, NASA's acting chief technologist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Today we've shown that electric aircraft have moved beyond science fiction and are now in the realm of practice." The challenge was sponsored by Google. The new technologies that were demonstrated in the competition "may end up in general aviation aircraft, spawning new jobs and new industries for the 21st century," according to NASA's news release. Fourteen teams took part in the competition, and three qualified for the final fly-off. The eGenius, sponsored by Airbus, also flew on electric battery power.