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Pipistrel Taurus G4 Wins Green Flight Challenge

Pipistrel Team
Jack Langelaan and Team Pipistrel were awarded a 3-foot-tall CAFE Green Flight Challenge Trophy from CAFE Foundation along with more than $1 million for winning the The Green Flight Challenge sponsored by Google. Photo by Adam Smith

Dave Morss
Dave “Batman” Morss kicks back in the Pipistrel Taurus G4 with Sport Aviation during the battery run-down test. Photo courtesy Jason Paur, Wired.com

Pipistrel results
Pipistrel results

e-Genius results
e-Genius results

October 3, 2011 – Team Pipistrel along with partners at Penn State were announced today as the winners of The Green Flight Challenge sponsored by Google during a ceremony at NASA Ames Research Center in California. Team Pipistrel, flying the Taurus G4, was able to achieve an efficiency rating of 403.5 passenger miles per gallon. The second-place finisher e-Genius achieved 375.8 passenger miles per gallon, which is far more than the 200-mile standard required for the contest. In announcing the prize, Joe Parrish of NASA said the competition aircraft are five to 10 times more efficient that normal aircraft, emphasizing that existing aircraft could not achieve this efficiency and “innovation was required.”

Of the $1.65 million dollars available from NASA, Team Pipistrel was awarded $1.35 million and e-Genius $120,000. Dr. Brian Seeley,  president of the CAFE Foundation, said of the competition, “Our vision is to bring forth future air vehicles that are  emission-free, safe, and can land anywhere - to basically do what birds do.” Seeley also called EAA Chapter 124 member volunteers the “backbone” of the event, which took place at Sonoma County Airport in California.

In accepting the prize money, Team Pipistrel leader Jack Langelaan said, “This has been incredible progress over three years. Together we have seen that electric power is a beautiful way to power airplanes. It only costs $7 to fly the Pipistrel for two hours compared to the much higher cost to use fossil fuels.” Langelaan finished his remarks with a bold prediction: “We will go from battery-powered flight to supersonic electric flight in one decade.”
It "flies like it looks,” said pilot Dave Morss, EAA, “A little odd, you're off the centerline of the aircraft and in the arc of a curved wing - sitting in a 4 1/4 degree bank.”

It was a smooth competition for Team Pipistrel with only a flat tire taxiing out, but the team had a spare on hand and changed it out very quickly. Morss reports that the G4 stalls at less than 52 mph, and is very benign in the stall. For the first 15 to 20 flights they landed at 60 mph, but they now land a little faster to make the landing easier since there's no suspension on the landing gear.

The winner of The Green Flight Challenge sponsored by Google was announced Monday during the Google Green Flight Challenge Exposition hosted by NASA at NASA Ames Research Center at Moffet Field. Google, which has been doing extensive research with electric cars, sponsored the first-ever electric aircraft charging station, which supplies electricity from geo-thermal energy, as well as other portions of the event.

Besides the top two finishers, which were electric aircraft, the Rotax-powered Phoenix competed in the event and was the only aircraft to fly in by itself. Embry-Riddle’s EcoEagle participated as an exhibition contestant. The competition wrapped up Thursday with a final weigh-in for gas-powered aircraft and a battery run-down test for the electric aircraft. The electric aircraft needed to show a 1/2-hour reserve and each aircraft was ground-run at half throttle to demonstrate this requirement.

Another New Pipistrel
The effort to win the NASA competition has delayed progress a few months on a new aircraft being developed by Pipistrel, the four-place Panther, according to Tine Tomazic, a technical coordinator for Pipistrel’s research and development section.

The company is building two aircraft, one with piston power, the other with electric, aiming for first flights early in 2012 prior to display at AERO Friedrichshafen. Pipistrel has placed a high priority on bringing the Panther to Oshkosh but have not decided if the Taurus G4 will make the trip as well.

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