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e-Genius, Pipistrel Contend for GFC Prize

Results of two-aircraft race held until Monday

eGenius
The Airbus-sponsored e-Genius, which emerged as one of the leading contenders during the competition.

G4
The Pipistrel Taurus G4, which made its first flight last month in Oshkosh. Photos by Pat Panzera

September 29, 2011 – Aided by stellar weather, the NASA Green Flight Challenge ended ahead of schedule with two aircraft neck-and-neck for the $1.65 million prize. Five total aircraft qualified for the event, which began Sunday, but mechanical issues and a disqualification dwindled the field to three aircraft with only two, the Airbus-sponsored e-Genius and the Pipistrel Taurus G4, having a real chance to win.

Qualifying events included noise, takeoff distance, and fuel efficiency. Today’s competition (September 29) was all about speed, but the aircraft still had to maintain a minimum efficiency based on passenger miles per gallon. So far the Airbus-sponsored e-Genius and the Pipistrel Taurus G4, each fully electric self-launch gliders, had the early edge.

Of the 10 aircraft that were originally entered, five initially qualified to compete this week. Soon that number dropped further as Embry-Riddle University’s EcoEagle was disqualified due to a conflict between contest rules and the university’s own aircraft operations rules. The EcoEagle was eventually allowed to compete, but as an exhibition participant ineligible to win any prize money.

Phoenix Air’s S-LSA Phoenix was the only participant to fly in to the competition; the team knew its aircraft, using a gas Rotax engine, would not pass the efficiency portion of the competition, but wanted to compete anyway. Team Feuling GFC encountered battery problems and was not able to complete its flight testing hours in time after correcting the problem.

The airplanes completed takeoff noise and distance tests on Monday and all successfully cleared the 50-foot height requirement and met a noise level requirement of no greater than 78 dBA at full-power takeoff.

Tuesday the competitors completed the fuel efficiency phase of the competition, flying four cycles of a closed loop course with an average speed of at least 100 mph, all while using the energy equivalent of less than 1 gallon of gasoline per 200 passenger miles.

On the course the electric aircraft were the fastest. e-Genius completed the course in a little less than two hours, followed shortly by Pipistrel however Pipistrel, despite being launched second was able to close the gap on e-Genius and finished on its tail. The Phoenix came in after about 2-1/2 hours in the air, shortly after the EcoEagle.

Wednesday was set aside for recharging before Thursday’s speed competition. The Phoenix was definitely the fastest out there but the trade-off was that it would not achieve the 200-passenger-miles-per-gallon efficiency requirement, which must be met simultaneously. e-Genius, the Taurus G4, and the EcoEagle also made speed runs; since the EcoEagle is an exhibition participant, it will come down to the e-Genius and Taurus G4 for the prize.

While the competition is over, most aircraft that originally entered the competition will likely participate in the Google Green Flight Challenge Exposition on Monday, with some of the challengers giving flight demonstrations. The competition results including the winner of the prize will be announced on Monday, October 3. Experimenter Editor Pat Panzera will have more details on the competition next week and in the October edition of Experimenter.

Pat Panzera and Barb Benish contributed to this report.

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