Pipistrel's 100-HP, 147-Knot, Two-Place Efficiency Champ

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Pipistrel has announced that its Virus SW -- the winner of the NASA General Aviation Technology Challenge for 2007 and 2008, exhibited higher speed, range and climb rate than other challengers while incorporating lower cabin noise, lower empty weight and shorter takeoff distances -- is now shipping to buyers. The two-place, side-by-side, Kevlar-reinforced composite high-wing is available in several engine and landing-gear configurations and can offer up to 7.5 hours endurance, burn 3.6 gallons per hour at 133 knots or fly at 147 knots behind a 100-hp Rotax 912 and an adjustable propeller. The aircraft offers "the largest flight safety margins in its category," according to Pipistrel, plus a useful load of 551 pounds and a range in excess of 1000 nm. The aircraft has high-aspect-ratio wings spanning just over 35 feet and boasts a 17:1 glide ratio. That has the manufacturer boasting that the aircraft is also "great for thermalling" and slope soaring, if you can manage the 42-knot clean stall speed.

The aircraft currently lists for over $100,000, but prices may be affected by exchange rates (euro to dollar). Pipistrel's win of the 2008 NASA GAT Challenge earned the company more than $60,000 in prize money; it was winner of the Green Prize for fuel consumption and winner for top speed and best climb rate of those aircraft entered. To enter, high-efficiency aircraft had to be capable of a 400-mile flight with 30 minutes reserve, stall at a speed not to exceed 52 mph and not exceed a noise level of 72 dBA measured at a distance of 500 feet during takeoff. Additional rules applied.