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Green Flight Challenge Update
October 3, 2011
Moffett Field
NASA Ames Research Center, CA


image of Pipistrel-USA Taurus G4 aircraftA Pipistrel-USA team member wipes down the Taurus G4 aircraft prior to competition.
The Google Green Flight Challenge Exposition hosted by NASA kicked off at 9:00 AM. In addition to the aircraft of the Green Flight Challenge, an outstanding array of cutting-edge technology companies exhibited in the tent fair. Company engineers and representatives were on hand to explain their products and technologies and to demonstrate their advanced vehicles and innovations. The public and dignitaries were on hand for the Awards ceremony at 12:00 PM. Following remarks by NASA Acting Chief Technologist, Joseph Parrish, and CAFE Foundation President, Brien Seeley, NASA awarded the first place prize of $1,350,000 in the Green Flight Challenge sponsored by Google to Pipistrel-USA.com of State College, PA, and second place prize of $120,000 to eGenius of Ramona, CA. The winning teams, which were both electric powered, shattered the fuel efficiency requirement by achieving about twice the required 200 passenger miles per gallon.

› View NASA Press Release

Later in the afternoon CAFE hosted a reception for the teams capping off an extraordinary week in aviation and successfully conclusion to this NASA Centennial Challenge.

NASA's Centennial Challenges seek unconventional solutions to problems of interest to the agency and the nation. NASA provides the prize purse, but the competitions are managed by non-profit organizations that cover the cost of operations through commercial or private sponsorships. Competitors have included private companies, student groups and independent inventors working outside the traditional aerospace industry. Unlike contracts or grants, prizes are awarded only after solutions are demonstrated successfully.

There have been 22 Centennial Challenges competition events since 2005. NASA has awarded nearly $6.0 million to 15 different challenge-winning teams. Centennial Challenges is one of the ten Space Technology programs, managed by NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist. For more information about the program and descriptions of each of the challenge competitions, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/challenges

For more information about NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/oct

For high resolution photos of the challenge, visit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nasahqphoto

› Green Flight Challenge News

October 2, 2011
Moffett Field
NASA Ames Research Center, CA


Having concluded flight competition activities in Santa Rosa, the teams moved south to NASA Ames Research Center on October 2 to prepare for the Google Green Flight Challenge Exposition hosted by NASA being held tomorrow.

A warm-up for the Exposition was held on Saturday, at the CAFE campus in Santa Rosa. The public got their first chance see these amazing aircraft up close. Click here for time-lapse glimpse of the event. In addition CAFE dedicated the new Google sponsored electric aircraft charging station, which had been put to use during the week to recharge the electric powered aircraft. This first in the world power station is completely supplied by geothermal, solar, and wind power. The electric powered aircraft thus used no fossil fuels and produced no pollutants – truly the debut of green aviation.

Saturday evening, CAFE hosted a recognition banquet for all their volunteers and the teams. Highlights of the event were the unveiling of the new CAFE Green Flight Challenge trophy and Erik Lindbergh, of LEAP, announcing that the e-Genius aircraft was the quietest and they were the first winner of the Lindbergh Prize for Quietest Aircraft.

September 29, 2011
Charles Schultz Airport
Santa Rosa, CA


It was another fine morning at the Green Flight Challenge sponsored by Google. Shortly after the daily 8:00 AM team briefings, the pilots and crews headed to their planes to finish preparations for today’s speed competition. The planes were to again fly 200 miles but today the objective was to do so at their top speed that still let them get at least 200 passenger miles per gallon energy efficiency. They would also have to demonstrate that they had a 30-minute fuel reserve after landing.

The PhoEnix plane was the first to takeoff at 9:10, followed by Pipistrel USA.com, e Genius, and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University at about 10 minute intervals. As the planes raced off into the clear morning sky, the question on everyone’s mind was how much faster would the planes by able to fly as compared to their speed registered in the Tuesday fuel efficiency race?

The aviation gas powered PhoEnix was the first to land and had an average speed in the 130 mph range – nearly 75% better than they had done on Tuesday. Next came the all electric powered Pipistrel USA.com, and e Genius both in the 110 mph range, and the hybrid powered ERAU plane all showing small increases over their Tuesday speed. It was apparent that the total energy capacity of the electric powered aircraft had been optimized for the lower speeds and they could not afford to significantly increase speed without running low on power.

After the planes had all been towed back to the CAFE hanger area, the final competition element was to verify flight fuel reserve power levels. For PhoEnix, they simply drained the remaining fuel and compared it to the amount used. For the electric powered aircraft, the procedure was a bit for time consuming as the plane engines were run for 1 to 2 hours at low power to verify a 30 minute reserve at cruise speed power consumption. All teams were on edge as the minutes ticked off. They had done the calculations but would it match the real world test?

At approximately 4:00 PM the answer was in. The planes had passed the final hurdle and now the judges would go to work to finalize the scores that would determine the winner of the Green Flight Challenge.

The teams will have to wait till Monday to know the answer. The awards will be announced at the Google Green Flight Challenge Expo which is being held at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffet Field. The awards ceremony starts at 12:00 PDT and will be broadcast live on NASA Television. Please tune in to find who is the winner of the $1.3M first prize.

› View all large images in Flickr
› Green Flight Challenge News

September 28, 2011
Charles Schultz Airport
Santa Rosa, CA


The electric aircraft are completing their battery recharging today. Many of the team members are away from the CAFE campus doing some sight seeing or catching up other business. Everything is much more relaxed today with no big surprises or unforeseen problems from yesterday’s fuel efficiency competition.

The daily briefing was at 8:00 AM. The flight data from yesterday has been locked down. There was one question about when and where the fuel reserve measurement would take place tomorrow and CAFE said they were working final details on that today and would communicate the information to the Team Leads later today.

The weather looks to be a bit qustionable tomorrow when the speed test is planned, so CAFE wants to get the planes off as soon as they can tomorrow morning. A suggestion was made to have pilots briefing at 7:30AM to expedite this and CAFE took that under advisement. Safety and security measures were reviewed and particular emphasis was placed on the no smoking requirement. This is fire season in California and the area is quite dry and a fire would be a bad thing to deal with. Everyone was also cautioned about the poisonous black widow and brown recluse spiders in the area.

Media interest is increasing and everyone was told to expect a lot of media representatives tomorrow and Saturday.

The Challenge was front page news in the local newspaper the News Democrat.

The Teams did interviews with the NASA Edge and NASA TV.

September 27, 2011
Charles Schultz Airport
Santa Rosa, CA


e-Genius aircraftThe e-Genius aircraft.

Pipistrel aircraftThe Pipistrel USA.com aircraft.

PhoEnix aircraftThe Phoenix aircraft.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University aircraftThe Embry Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) aircraft.
It was another fine day in Santa Rosa for the Green Flight Challenge sponsored by Google. Weather was cool in the morning but quickly warmed into the mid 80’s with clear blue skies and a few wispy clouds floating by in a slight breeze.

The morning kicked off at 8:00 AM with the daily briefing for the competitors, CAFE volunteers, and media representatives. The teams today would be flying the fuel efficiency phase of the competition. The requirement was to fly four cycles of the closed loop course with an average speed of at least 100 miles per hour and use the energy equivalent of less than 1 gallon of gasoline per passenger. Total miles to be covered would be about 200 miles.

There were many technical questions from the team pilots regarding the flight path requirements. CAFE reiterated the minimum (4,000 ft) and maximum (6,500 ft) altitude requirements, staying within 2 miles of the course flightline, and making course turns at the pylons within one quarter mile. The concern and attention to these details said a lot about the seriousness of the teams to have a clean flight and score points toward the $1.3M prize purse.

The planes were towed out of the CAFE campus at about 10:00 AM with e-Genius in the lead, followed by Pipistrel USA.com, Phoenix, and the Embry Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) plane. E-Genius tookoff about 10:20, with Pipistrel at 10:25, and Phoenix at 10:30. ERAU took off at about 10:45 AM.

The planes proceeded out onto the course circuit and made their first, second, and third passes back over the airport at about 30 minute intervals. The planes made a low pass over the CAFE hanger on their final loop to stop the clock on their flight run. eGenius completed the course in a little under 2 hours and was the first to land followed shortly by Pipistrel USA.com. Everyone was then on the lookout for the Phoenix aircraft. The two hour mark passed – where was Phoenix? Shouldn’t they be here by now? Had they had a problem? As the minutes ticked off, the questions and tension mounted. Word came that an aircraft had been sighted on final approach to the finish line. As it got closer all were surprised to see it was ERAU! They had passed Phoenix and they finished just over the two hour mark. The question then in everyone’s mind was where was Phoenix? Finally word came that they were on final approach and Phoenix passed the finish line after about 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Everyone was happy that all four planes were now safely back and they were all greeted with loud applause as they were towed back the CAFE campus. The pilots were debriefed, the planes inspected, and flight data was retrieved from the onboard recorders. The planes were later rolled into position to start their recharging cycle that will continue over night and into tomorrow.

Teams will be taking it a bit easy tomorrow, analyzing their data, and planning their strategy for the speed competition on Thursday.

September 26, 2011
Charles Schultz Airport
Santa Rosa, CA


image of the e-Genius electric aircraftThe e-Genius electric aircraft. (e-Genius team/Eric Raymond)

We are now down to three teams competing for the NASA funded prize purse for the Green Flight Challenge sponsored by Google. They are PhoEnix, Pipistrel-USA, and e-Genius. Five of the original thirteen registered teams had received FAA licenses and filed required paperwork with CAFÉ by the August 25th deadline.

Yesterday was check in day for the teams and aircraft. Team Fueling notified CAFE that they were withdrawing from the competition due to mechanical problems. The team from Emory Riddle Aeronautical University was disqualified for not having the required ballistic parachute installed in their aircraft and not being able to fly with two pilots as required.

This morning the weather was nice after the fog lifted around 10:00 AM. Highs in low 80’s. Everyone needed sun screen.

A Team Briefing was held at 8:00 to go over the plan for the days events which included completion of vehicle inspections, weight measurements, takeoff noise and distance tests.

At about 11:00 the CAFE Board met to consider a petition from ERAU that they be allow to fly the course and collect flight data even though they would not be eligible for the NASA prize funds. The CAFE board approved their request and everyone appeared pleased. The other teams were very supportive of ERAU. ERAU will be permitted to fly on noninterference basis – tomorrow they will take off on the fuel efficiency flight about 15-20 minutes after the others depart.

The noise and takeoff distance tests got underway shortly after 3:00 PM. CAFE allowed media to go out near the runway and take video and photos as the planes took off and cleared the 50 ft height requirement and noise measurement. PhoEnix was first up Pipistrel-USA was next,, followed by e-Genius, and then ERAU. All were successful on their first attempts. The e-Genius team was offered and accepted a chance to do a 2nd run due to unexpected background noise from another incoming aircraft across the field. They were again successful. All the planes were impressively quite!

That concluded the first day of GFC competition and the aircraft returned to the CAFE hanger campus to recharge their batteries for tomorrow’s flight which will cover about 200 miles. The weather looks good for tomorrow.