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Mon, Aug 13, 2007

Pipistrel Sport Plane Wins NASA Challenge

Short-Wing Virus Collects Most Of $250K In Prize Money

A slightly modified Pipistrel Virus motorglider collected the majority of $250,000 in prize money awarded this weekend by NASA, in a competition aimed at bringing small aircraft to the masses.

With the support of NASA, the CAFE Foundation held a race this weekend for personal aircraft vehicles (PAVs) at Charles Schultz Sonoma County Airport in California. Four teams competed in six categories, reports C-Net: speed, short takeoff, efficiency, handling, noise, and best overall.

The Virus -- built in Slovenia, recently approved for US operations by the FAA, and available for base price of about $70,000 -- took top honors, winning the $100,000 grand prize... as well as best short-field takeoff, and for most efficient aircraft. Pilot Michael Coates called the Virus "the Prius of airplanes" -- as it can go as fast as 170 mph, while getting 50 miles per gallon.

As for speediest aircraft tested, a Vans RV-4 collected that $25,000 prize. The highly-modified aircraft also collected another $50,000 for being the quietest plane tested of all entrants.

"The RV-4 had a large number of modifications to achieve the lower noise, and they did an enormous amount to flight testing with noise meters to become masters of low noise flight," said NASA aerospace engineer Mark Moore.

A team flying the erstwhile Cessna 172 collected $25,000 for best-handling aircraft... perhaps not surprising, considering it was the only Part 23 aircraft in a field of sport planes.

"The results make sense -- the Cessna 172 is the most successful (and highest production volume small aircraft) precisely for the reason that the handling qualities are so good," said Moore.

As part of its Centennial Challenge program, NASA has staked $2 million for five PAV races.

FMI: www.cafefoundation.org/v2/pav_home.php

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