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Pipistrel Virus The Big Winner At PAV Challenge

A Pipistrel Virus flown by Australian pilot Michael Coates dominated the PAV Challenge held last week in Santa Rosa, California. Photo by Stefanie Olsen, courtesy of CNET (www.CNET.com)

Dave and Diane Anders and their RV-4 being pulled into the CAFE Foundation hangar for an official weigh-in. The RV-4 plane won $25,000 in the speed challenge and another $50,000 for emitting the least amount of noise on its flight. Photo by Stefanie Olsen, courtesy of CNET (www.CNET.com)

August 15, 2007 — A modified version of the Pipistrel Virus owned by Vance Turner of Rescue, California, emerged as the big winner in the first Personal Air Vehicle (PAV) Challenge competition held last week (August 4-12) at Charles Schultz-Sonoma County Airport (STS) near Santa Rosa, California. NASA put up $250,000 in prize money for the inaugural event, which was hosted by the Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency (CAFE) Foundation, and the Pipistrel took home $160,000 of it.

The Slovenian-built aircraft piloted by Michael Coates won the $100,000 Vantage (overall best) prize; the $25,000 CAFE Efficiency prize; the $25,000 Short Runway prize; and $10,000 for second place in the Top Speed prize.

Other awards included the $50,000 Noise prize and the $15,000 Top Speed prize won by Dave and Diane Anders of Visalia, California, who entered their modified Van's RV-4; and the $25,000 Handling Qualities prize won by John Rehn of Santa Rosa, California, and his Cessna 172 (pilot: Jeff Stocks). Another Pipistrel Virus was also entered in the contest.

The PAV, one of the seven NASA Centennial Challenges, promotes the use of self-operated, personal aircraft for fast, safe, efficient, affordable, environmentally friendly and comfortable on-demand transportation as a solution to America's future mobility needs. Modeled after the "X Prize" competition, it aims to stimulate rapid, private sector innovation and progress in PAV performance through the offering of substantial prize awards.

The CAFE Foundation is a nonprofit group of volunteer flight-test engineers that operates as the world's only flight-test center for experimental aircraft. CAFE's published data and established benchmarks have led to numerous technical innovations in its 25-year history. (Learn more about the Cafe Foundation.)

The PAV aircraft and special NASA exhibits were displayed over the weekend at the EAA Chapter 124 hangar located at the airport. Chapter members also provided volunteers to help run the event.

This year's competition established baselines for more difficult standards in place for next year. Total prize money will increase to $300,000. NASA has earmarked a total of $2 million for the five-year program.

(Read CAFE President Brien Seeley's thorough description of the PAV Challenge in the November 2006 issue of Sport Aviation.)

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