The winners of last week's Green Flight Challenge at the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport now have $1.35 million to spend how they wish— though presumably, it won't go to gas money.
Team Pipistrel-USA.com, from State College, Pa., claimed the prize after flying 200 miles over Sonoma County in an electric plane that used just more than the equivalent of half-gallon of fuel per passenger.
"Two years ago the thought of flying 200 miles at 100 mph in an electric aircraft was pure science fiction," Jack Langelaan, team leader of Team Pipistrel-USA.com, said in a statement. "Now, we are all looking forward to the future of electric aviation."
The gossamer-thin plane features a twin fusillage with separate cockpits either side of a front propeller.
NASA, which provided the prize money, unveiled the winner Monday at an awards ceremony at the agency's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field in Sunnyvale.
The actual contest took place last week in Sonoma County and was run by the Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency Foundation, a Santa Rosa non-profit with decades of experience in measuring efficient aircraft. Google provided additional sponsorship.
Fourteen teams originally registered for the contest, though only three made it to the competition. Collectively, the teams invested more than $4 million in pursuit of the prize, which NASA called the largest in aviation history.
The space and aeronautics agency hopes the resulting technology advances work their way into commercial aviation. They also see great potential for improvements to personal travel that may, for example, eventually allow people to take air taxis between small, neighborhood airports.