Eric Raymond Seeks Tour of the Americas on Solar Power

Eric Raymond flew across the U.S. in Sunseeker I on solar power in 21 hops in 1990.  He crossed the Alps between Germany and Italy in 2009 flying Sunseeker II. He  co-piloted e-Genius with Klaus Ohlmann to win second place in the 2011 Green Flight Challenge.  With a record like that, it’s only natural that his next accomplishment could prove to be extraordinary. Continue reading "Eric Raymond Seeks Tour of the Americas on Solar Power"

Creating a Standard for Electrified AC

Ron Gremban's Cessna is now electric.

Ron Gremban is an early developer of plug-in electric hybrid (PHEV) automobiles, having converted hundreds of Toyota Prius vehicles to extend their electric-only range and make them even more practical real-world automobiles.

As part of the Electric Aircraft Symposium hosted by the CAFE Foundation in April, he shared some of his concerns about potential safety concerns for another form of EV, electrified aircraft.

He proposed standards for knowing when an electric aircraft motor is “On,” explaining that electric aircraft motors do not turn over when their controller is on “O,” as spectators at the Green Flight Challenge could appreciate. Normal aviation practice is for the pilot to yell “Clear!” and verify that bystanders have indeed cleared the area before the engine is fired up. The noise and visual indications let people know the engine is active, and even that is not always enough to prevent some unfortunate prop strikes each year. Continue reading "Creating a Standard for Electrified AC"

Sebring Light Sport Aircraft Expo 2012

Jean-Luc Rousseau holds the demonstrably ultra-light trike.

There was, admittedly, a large array of every type of LSA in attendance at the Light Sport Aircraft Expo January 19 to 22, in Sebring, Florida. Vendors were uniformly upbeat and claimed rising sales, despite prices ranging from mid-$80,000 to high-$180,000. A good many Cubs and Kitfoxes were on display along with myriad wannabes.

Dan Johnson, head of the Light Aircraft Manufacturer’s Association, reports that 16,000 attendees made this a record year, despite 5% fewer exhibitors on display.

Continue reading "Sebring Light Sport Aircraft Expo 2012"

Green Flight Challenge, The Winners

The Pipistrel team.

Monday October 3 marked the Green Flight Challenge Expo, sponsored by Google and staged under the control tower at the center of Moffett Field, home of NASA Ames Research Center.

The four airplanes that flew in the Green Flight Challenge at Charles M. Schulz Sonoma Country Airport in Santa Rosa, California, were there, along with Greg Stevenson's full-size mockup of his GFC design and a Pipistrel Virus that had won an earler NASA/CAFE Personal Air Vehicle (PAV) Challenge.

Twenty exhibitors were on hand to show their approaches to green aviation, and three rows of tents protected exhibitors and their displays from the rain that started mid-afternoon. At about 11 a.m., attendees were brought to Building 3, in which NASA's acting Chief Technical Officer Joe Parrish recognized the GFC winners. Continue reading "Green Flight Challenge, The Winners"

Green Flight Challenge Video Report by CAFE Foundation

pMPG competition

pMPG competitionThe CAFE Foundation published a video report showing takeoffs and landings of the participating aircraft. Each aircraft's efficiency is evaluated using special hardware to measure total energy output, whether as electricity or liquid fuel. The resulting metric of Passenger Mile Per Gallon or pMPG is used as a component of each team's final score. Aircraft must achieve 200 pMPG across all competition phases to qualify for the US $1.5M prize. Continue reading "Green Flight Challenge Video Report by CAFE Foundation"

Green Flight Challenge, The Main Event

CAFE Foundation Hangar Boss Mike Fenn waves the speed competition checkered flag.

Tuesday was a glorious, clear day, and one could see all the way to the peaks surrounding the Sonoma Valley. This was the day for the core event in the Green Flight Challenge, the test of whether an airplane could accomplish the primary goal of the competition, flying a 200 mile course in a precise way, maintaining a 100 mph or better average speed, and returning 200 passenger miles per gallon (or electrical equivalent) energy usage.

Truth to tell, there really isn't a lot to see other than the takeoffs of these spectacular airplanes, followed by two hours of waiting, during which they each fly over the airport four times, at at least 4000-foot altitude, and finally land at the end of their run. The tension of seeing whether there are any position changes, indicating that a faster airplane has overtaken a slower one, tends to provide some excitement, but the challenge of navigating the course and practicing the most precise flying skills can only be experienced by the pilots. Continue reading "Green Flight Challenge, The Main Event"