Some thoughts on the project from Team Leader Jack Langelaan

Some thoughts on the project from Team Leader Jack Langelaan

The Taurus G4 flew at an equivalent fuel efficiency of 403 passenger miles per gallon at a speed of 107 miles per hour. This is both twice as efficient and twice as fast as a Toyota Prius! The EPA rated fuel efficiency of a Prius is only 50 miles per gallon at 55 miles per hour, which results in only 200 passenger miles per gallon if all the seats are occupied. Its fuel efficiency at 100 miles per hour is not something that I would like to test (and I definitely do not encourage anyone to try it)!

Both eGenius and have shown that battery powered electric flight is feasible for general aviation aircraft, and we have shown that tremendous improvements in fuel efficiency are possible. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University showed that hybrid gas-electric propulsion is feasible, and did this with a team consisting entirely of students.

This has been the most rewarding project of my career. Ivo Boscarol, the owner of Pipistrel, has tremendous vision for the future of general aviation and he has put together a tremendous group of people. Working with the engineers at Pipistrel (Tine Tomazic, Jure Tomazic, Franci Popit, Gregor Veble and Vid Plevnik) was fantastic, and I am looking forward to continuing our work together. The trust that they have in each other is incredible to see, and it was clear that everyone had earned this trust through mutual hard work and entrepreneurial spirit. No request was impossible to fulfill, but you could tell how hard it would be by counting the seconds between the question and the “OK, I can do that.” Under one second meant it was easy, anything over 5 seconds meant it would be tough. But it always got done.
Our pilots, Dave Morss and Robin Reid, were absolutely critical to our success. Their professionalism and focus on the mission helped all of us stay exactly on task. None of us engineers wanted to be the one to disappoint Dave and Robin, and we all spent many hours burning the midnight oil to ensure that we lived up to the trust that they placed in us. Hearing Dave’s stories (both flying stories and teenage shenanigans!) helped pass the three days between the last flying day and the announcement of the winner.

We had tremendous help from people all over the United States. I’m an Assistant Professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Penn State University. My department head, George Lesieutre, continued to encourage and support my participation throughout the project. My colleague Mark Maughmer provided great contacts with many people, and he was a great sounding board for ideas. Mike Robison of Central PA Soaring was essential for both certification and test facilities. We also owe thanks to Tracey Peters and Larry McCarl of Mifflin County Airport; Tim Welles and Chip Garner of ClearNav Instruments (the special GFC Update of the ClearNav software was a huge help!); and finally Penn State’s Office of Physical Plant for organizing the crane to unload the container when the Taurus G4 arrived at Mifflin County Airport.

Brian Stauffer and AJ Deng of Penn State’s Department of Meteorology provided high resolution wind field predictions over the competition area, and this allowed us to plan optimal flight trajectories. My graduate students Anjan Chakrabarty and Kirk Miles were a huge help. Both of them spent many hours writing the flight planning software and generating the flight plans that we used in the competition. During the first three laps of the miles per gallon flight on Tuesday, September 27 the actual energy consumption was within 1% of that predicted by the flight plan!
In a separate post Tine Tomazic will talk about the aircraft’s time at Oshkosh and expand on my comments. In Hollister, California Gerry Gabe made room in his hangar for us, and provided dozens of connections that helped us get things done. At Santa Rosa, California the aircraft spent two days at the Santa Rosa Jet Center before going to the CAFE Foundation campus. We thank everyone at the Santa Rosa Jet Center for their help. We thank all the volunteers from the CAFE Foundation and EAA Chapter 124, especially Bruno Mombrinie (now we all know what a brown recluse looks like- fortunately we never actually saw one).

Finally we thank Google, NASA and the board of the CAFE Foundation. The Centennial Challenge program is a wonderful way to spur innovation, and it was wonderful to meet so many talented engineers and pilots during the competition. Jack

Nasa awards ceremony Team Photo

Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency (CAFE) Foundation President Brien A. Seeley M.D., left, NASA Acting Chief Technologist Joe Parrish, 2nd from left, and Pipistrel-USA Team Lead Jack Langelaan, center with suit, and the entire Pipistrel-USA, Taurus G4 aircraft team pose for a photograph shortly after winning the 2011 Green Flight Challenge, sponsored by Google, on Monday, Oct. 3, 2011 at the NASA Ames Research Center, Mountain View, Calif. The all electric Taurus G4 aircraft achieved the equivalency of more than 400 miles per gallon. NASA and CAFE held the challenge to advance technologies in fuel efficiency and reduced emissions with cleaner renewable fuels and electric aircraft. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

High Res available for press if required.

The 2011 Green Flight Challenge coverage on CNN

The 2011 Green Flight Challenge coverage on CNN

Electric plane wins $1.35 million prize

A Pennsylvania company has won a $1.35 million prize from NASA for developing a highly efficient airplane power by electricity. of State College earned the top prize in the CAFE Green Flight Challenge, sponsored by Google, NASA announced Monday.

The plane developed by Pipistrel doubled the fuel efficiency requirement for the competition – flying 200 miles in less than two hours while using less than a gallon of fuel per occupant or the equivalent in electricity. The winning plane used a little more than a half-gallon of fuel per passenger for the 200-mile flight.

Team was one of 14 entrants in the competition, which began two years ago. In total, the 14 teams invested $4 million in the competition, according to NASA.

“Two years ago the thought of flying 200 miles at 100 mph in an electric aircraft was pure science fiction,” Jack W. Langelaan, team leader of Team, said in statement. “Now, we are all looking forward to the future of electric aviation.”

Second place, and a $120,000 prize, went to Team eGenius of Ramona, California, whose leader, Eric Raymond, congratulated Team Pipistrel.

The winning aircraft, the Pipistrel Taurus G4, is a four-seat, twin-fuselage aircraft powered by a 145-kilowatt brushless electric motor driving a two-blade propeller mounted on a spar between the fuselages. The plane’s wingspan is about 75 feet.

“I’m proud that Pipistrel won. They’ve been a leader in getting these things into production, and the team really deserves it, and worked hard to win this prize,” Raymond said in a NASA statement.

“Electric aircraft have moved beyond science fiction and are now in the realm of practice,” Joe Parrish, acting chief technologist at NASA headquarters in Washington, said in a statement.

The planes flew last week out of Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport in California. Only three of the 14 entrants made it into the air, according to The Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. The airport is home to the Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency Foundation, which organized the competition with NASA.

Press Release from Pipistrel General Manager – Ivo Boscarol

Ivo Boscarol, the general manager of Pipistrel, said:

“We are happy to have had the opportunity to raise the limitations of the electric flight one step higher. What was science fiction three years ago is reality today!
Pipistrel has proven that at the moment, aircraft industry has far overtaken the automotive industry – no car in the world is capable of driving 250 miles with the average speed higher than 100 miles per hour and the fuel consumption of less than one gallon per passenger – what is more, we did this regardless of the weight limitations in aviation and despite huge founding that the automotive industry has.
This achievement was made by Pipistrel and nobody can take this away from us anymore.”
The second place was claimed by the team E-genius of the University in Stuttgart. This means a double victory for Pipistrel, who has been team E-Genius’s development partner. Their aircraft is actually a modified Pipistrel Taurus (wings and fuselage) with a specially developed tail section and an electric propulsion system in the tail. So in a way, Pipistrel’s aircraft claimed the first and the second place!
Just after the results were announced, the team Pipistrel astonished the organizers, the judges, the media and everyone present with a challenge of their own:
Pipistrel’s philosophy has always been to set a goal TOO high and then strive to achieve it.
Therefore they have challenged the NASA, CAFE foundation, Google and the entire global aviation industry!! Pipistrel will donate a part of their 1.65 million prize money towards the prize for the next challenge, the objective of which will be to produce a supersonic electric aircraft!
To conclude, Pipistrel would like to thank the entire team of developers – without your knowledge and hard work, the world’s first 4-seat electric aircraft would not fly!
Thanks to all the Pipistrel employees for their support and hard work, to the organizers for the wonderful and well-prepared competition, to the judges for the job done fair and well and to all the other competing teams.
Thanks to everyone who helped this project in any way and lest but not the least – thank YOU for your support and kind words!