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The Need for Speed: Day 4 of Green Flight Challenge
09.30.11
 
CAFE Foundation Hanger Boss Mike Fenn waves the speed competition checkered flag for the PhoEnix aircraft during the 2011 Green Flight Challenge. CAFE Foundation Hanger Boss Mike Fenn waves the speed competition checkered flag for the PhoEnix aircraft. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The PhoEnix aircraft takes off for the start of the speed competition during the 2011 Green Flight Challenge. The PhoEnix aircraft takes off for the start of the speed competition. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Hot air balloons pass over the campus of the 2011 Green Flight Challenge. Hot air balloons pass over the campus of the 2011 Green Flight Challenge. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Pipistrel Taurus G4 Pilot David Morss, center, is is weighed-in as CAFE Foundation Weights Chief Wayne Cook, right, and Weight crew member Ron Stout look on during the 2011 Green Flight Challenge. Pipistrel Taurus G4 Pilot David Morss, center, is is weighed-in as CAFE Foundation Weights Chief Wayne Cook, right, and Weight crew member Ron Stout look on. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
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It was another fine morning at the Green Flight Challenge, sponsored by Google. Shortly after the daily 11:00 a.m. EDT 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 11:10 a.m. EDT, followed at 10-minute intervals by Pipistrel USA.com, e-Genius and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. As the planes raced off into the clear morning sky, the question on everyone's mind : 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 Embry-Riddle 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 time consuming as the plane engines were run for one to two 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 7:00 p.m. EDT, 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, Oct. 3 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 3:00 p.m. EDT and will be broadcast live on NASA Television. Please tune in to find who is the winner of the $1.3 million first prize!

› Click here for more information on NASA's Green Flight Challenge!
 
 


Dave Steitz, 202-358-1730
Headquarters, Washington
david.steitz@nasa.gov

Janet Anderson, 256-544-0034
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
janet.l.anderson@nasa.gov