Pipistrel-USA.com received a check for $1.35 million this afternoon for winning the CAFE Green Flight Challenge, a NASA Centennial Challenge prize funded by Google for the demonstration of fuel-efficient aircraft.
eGenius, of Ramona, Calif., was awarded a second-place prize of $120,000. The team also won a $10,000 prize for the quietest aircraft in the competition. Erik Lindbergh, the grandson of Charles Lindbergh, presented the smaller prize, which was funded by Jean Schulz, the widow of Peanuts cartoonist Charles M. Schulz. The competition was held at the Charles M. Schulz – Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa, Calif.
“Two years ago the thought of flying 200 miles at 100 mph in an electric aircraft was pure science fiction,” said Jack W. Langelaan, team leader of Team Pipistrel-USA.com. “Now, we are all looking forward to the future of electric aviation.”
Langelaan said his company would contribute $100,000 for a new prize for the first electric aircraft to break the speed of sound. He believe it could be accomplished within five years. The prize would depend upon whether NASA and Google would be willing to provide funding.
NASA says that the prize, the largest in aviation history, was created to inspire the development of more fuel-efficient aircraft and spur the start of a new electric airplane industry. The space agency hopes the technologies developed will enter into the general aviation industry.
“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 winning 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. The first and second place teams, which were both electric-powered, achieved twice the fuel efficiency requirement of the competition, meaning they flew 200 miles using just over a half-gallon of fuel equivalent per passenger. Pipistrel-USA.com’s aircraft exceeded 300 miles while eGenius’s plane fell just below 300 miles.
“I’m proud that Pipistrel won, they’ve been a leader in getting these things into production, and the team really deserves it, and worked hard to win this prize,” said Eric Raymond, team leader of eGenius.
Fourteen teams registered for the competition and three qualified for the air trails held in the skies over Santa Rosa. The competitors invested more than $4 million in their aircraft.
The competition was managed by the Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency (CAFE) Foundation under an agreement with NASA.