NASA Awards "Personal Air Vehicle" Prizes

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NASA over the weekend awarded $250,000 to participants in the Personal Air Vehicle competition, which promotes the use of personal aircraft for fast, safe, efficient, affordable, environmentally friendly and comfortable on-demand transportation. Four teams competed at the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport in California. The $100,000 Vantage Prize went to Vance Turner of Rescue, Calif., owner of a modified short-wing Pipistrel piloted by Michael Coates of Australia. The Pipistrel also won top prizes for efficiency and short-runway performance, and second place for speed, for another $60,000 in prize money. Coates told CNet News the airplane is the "Prius of airplanes" because it can go as fast as 170 mph and get 50 mpg. Prizes for low noise and high speed went to an RV-4, and a Cessna 172 took the prize for handling qualities. The challenge will continue annually for four more years. This year's competition establishes baselines for more difficult standards next year, when the total prize money will increase to $300,000. The overall prize money provided by NASA for all five years is $2 million.