Solar Flying Wing Joins Smithsonian Collection
Pathfinder-Plus, a pioneering solar-electric flying wing that set several altitude records, has become the fourth AeroVironment aircraft to land in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution. The flying wing, which spans 121 feet, is now on display in the National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport. Pathfinder-Plus set a world altitude record for propeller-powered aircraft by climbing to more than 80,000 feet in 1998. The technology used in Pathfinder-Plus led to the development of Helios, which holds the current world altitude record for propeller-driven aircraft in level flight of 96,863 feet, set during a flight above Hawaii in 2001. In 2002, Pathfinder-Plus flew several missions above Hawaii to prove that a high-flying, remotely piloted, environmentally friendly solar aircraft could be useful for commercial purposes, such as a relay platform for telecommunications or aerial surveillance of crops. The company's other aircraft that now live in the Smithsonian include the Gossamer Condor, Gossamer Albatross and Solar Challenger. The museum is also home to a flying Pterosaur replica and the Sunraycer solar race car developed by AeroVironment for General Motors. AeroVironment was founded by Paul MacCready and is based in Monrovia, Calif.