Tesla to Use Interim Transmission to Get Production Roadster Out the Door
New Mexico Car Dealers File Suit Against State’s Adoption of California Vehicle CO2 Standards

NASA Sponsoring 2008 General Aviation Technology Challenge; First Green Prize for PAVs

NASA and the non-profit CAFE Foundation have partnered to create a new Personal Air Vehicles (PAVs) Challenge for 2008 to advance five vital General Aviation Technologies: noise reduction, fuel efficiency, speed, safety and ease of use of the PAVs.

As part of the $300,000 General Aviation Technology Challenge next summer in Santa Rosa, California, NASA will fund the first Green Prize for PAVs. The CAFE Foundation is the flight test agency selected by NASA to conduct the event, and has published details and the official competition rules on its website.

The competition organizers expect to attract a showcase of innovative experimental and roadable aircraft (flying cars) as well as vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (VTOL). The leading examples of Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) will also compete in this year’s event.

Envisioned are 50+ MPG, easy to fly and near-all-weather personal aircraft that offer trip speeds 3-5 times faster than cars and that can land on very short runways. Such self-operated PAVs with advanced computerized cockpits can provide safe, affordable, eco-friendly, on-demand transportation, says the CAFE Foundation.

NASA aeronautics developed the PAV concept to provide a more distributed and less centralized system of air travel that could contribute to a more efficient transportation system. NASA has predicted that up to 45% of all miles traveled in the future could be in PAVs, thereby relieving congestion at metropolitan hub airports and the freeways that surround them, reducing the need to build new highways and saving much of the 6.8 billion gallons of fuel wasted in surface gridlock each year.

To stimulate rapid innovation and progress in PAV performance, NASA Centennial Challenges has funded $2M in cash prizes for a multi-year flight competition called the PAV Challenge, modeled after the X Prize. The 2008 GAT Challenge is the second instance of the competition.

The major prizes of the 2008 competition are:

  • Community Noise Prize: $150,000

  • Green Prize: $50,000

  • Aviation Safety Prize (safety and ease of use): $50,000

  • CAFE 400 Prize (400 mile race for speed): $25,000

  • Quietest LSA Prize: $10,000

The Green Prize.To win the Green Prize in the PAV Challenge, the competing aircraft must score the highest MPGe, or equivalent miles per gallon, based upon fuel price, fuel density and the payload carried. MPGe is evaluated after the aircraft flies the CAFE 400 race course.

The floor of the prize winning starts at 30 MPGe for a 2 seat aircraft carrying 400 pounds of payload during its CAFE 400 race. The winning aircraft must also average at least 100 statute mph during the race, including allowance for its GTT or ground travel time.

GTT respects the time required to park the aircraft and then walk, bike or drive to and from the destination doorstep. GTT is proportioned according to the aircraft’s takeoff distance, and is shortest for those with the ability to takeoff vertically (VTOL). Long takeoff distances imply using long runway airports that are usually farther from town and require longer GTTs to reach the destination doorway.

Prices for fuels and electricity in the Green Prize have been selected from national averages. They reflect some subsidy for biofuel as well as a slight premium for obtaining mogas at an airport location. All fuels must be approved and inspected by CAFE.

Each aircraft competing in the Green Prize will be carefully weighed on the CAFE scales before and after its CAFE 400 race flight in order to determine its fuel burn. The CAFE 400 race course is a VFR cross-country flight over beautiful Northern California that includes several climbs and descents, with some pylon check-points as high as 7000 feet MSL. Teams competing for the Green Prize must optimize every facet of their aircraft’s cross-country performance—aerodynamic, thermodynamic, structural and propulsive efficiency, as well as navigational accuracy, use of wind, weather and upslope effect.

Teams comprised of designers and craftsmen from the Experimental Aircraft Association, aerospace engineers, graduate students, venture capitalists and aircraft manufacturers are expected to compete. The CAFE Foundation website provides teams with a library of NASA research and expert consultants to help them prepare for the event. CAFE is now accepting discounted early bird team registrations for the competition and will offer select sponsors the opportunity to participate in the naming of the main prizes.



Jim G.

wow-- a very fun fantasy but I suspect it's still something of a nerd's pipedream, up there with the space elevator (no pun intended). Though the prize/competition model is a really good development as it stands a chance of providing the much needed motivation and vision to produce those advancements in aerospace technology that sci fi writers predicted would be here twenty or thirty years ago. Another area where the private sector is filling in for a lack of public will in the USA. NASA's greatest achievements and vision seem to have fizzled utterly since JFK and the von Braun team passed on, despite strong efforts by some of its administrators.

Mass proliferation of flying cars would generate a nightmarish smog problem, and cause energy use to skyrocket much as replacing trains with autos has done in America. My own mad pipedream is that the winner of this thing is a solar electric blimp. That would set the course flowing the right direction :-)


Never hoppen Joe !!!


"..predicted that up to 45% of all miles traveled in the future could be in PAVs"

and we have an air traffic control problem now. Imagine all the accidents that happen on the road today happening in the sky. This does not sound good to me.

Gee,I wonder if Moller will enter his infamous flying con job?

Unbelievable, unless it would be 100% solar electric powered.

Can't imagine many more million ICE flying machines when we are running short of liquid fuels.


Sonex has an electric and ethanol program underway. I think these traditionally configured air craft are what they have in mind rather than any flying car concepts.

John Baldwin

There is a lot of work going on in relation to flying cars. See:



Flying cars could have become a reality back when the helicopter was invented but they didn't for several good reasons: they require skill to fly (can you imagine "drunk flying"?), require traffic control, produce huge amounts of noise pollution and suck fuel like no tomorrow. Higher energy prices will all but guarantee there will never be flying cars, even if they solve the problems of traffic control and noise pollution there simply will not be enough energy to power these things, it would require a massive improvement in efficiency at a rate of improvement that is faster then the rate of increasing fuel prices to make flying cars possible and barring personal fusion powered flying cars I doubt that is going to happen.

mel kosanchick

I have video/audio/PDF all of Andrew S. Hahn and Mark D Moore presentations at EAA/AIAA/SAE/NASA etc.These guys are dedicated and I hope they continue to attend EAA Oshkosh each year. In Dayton,Ohio at the 2003 AIAA conference , Mark Moore made a brief AIAA PAV presentation to all the Airframe builders in attendance- Afterwards at dinner, I asked their reaction to Mark's excellent presentation. I found their response to be ironic at the birthplace of aeronautical technology/ innovation 100 years ago. Unfortunately, they said their focus was with existing customers and products in the next 2-3 year time frame out of economic necessity. Isn't it ironic, as the song goes. One of the great shortcoming of Capitalism is that the present value of returns five years out and more are almost nill. Unfortunately, free enterprise is very short sighted and interested primarily in quarterly/annual profit/loss statements.

I see a perfect storm hitting beginning in 2012. With the projected air and highway travel, our traffic infrastructure will fail (gridlock-winglock) in 2012. What is so interesting to me is how the current focus is exclusively on expanding highway and airport capacities, with little, if any, thought for a possible new modes of transporation as a solution. One of my father's theme (old fighter pilot) is that the "great WWII generation" was more airminded and open to new technology,in contrast to the antitechnology/ antiscience society we have today. Putting a few people on Mars only creates some abstract goal risking only a few lives in the abstract future (Capitalism discounts everything beyond five years to nill!!!!!-no risk).

In fact, except for Bushnell/Moore/Hahn and a small group of PAV advocates, no one is even looking at a possible new mode of transportation to address this perfect 2012 storm.

History has repeatedly demonstrated that technology of new modes of transporation (horse/buggy, ships, canal,boats,steamboat/ships/railroads/automobile/trucks/airplane) have advanced our social and economic interests . The winning transportation element is "on demand" transportation vs. "scheduled". This "on demand" element is why the automobile/truck modes have been one hundred years of unstoppable success ( only limited by highway capacity).

My father/grandfather taught me the perfect way to predict the future- look at what DARPA/ NASA are doing!!!!NASA papers by Bushnell, Hahn, Moore are all published on the internet and all of them provide profound insights into the future of PAV's, a new mode of transportation ( the solution to coming 2012 perfect storm). It is a wild-wild west right now with several entrepreneurs(including my family) entering various segments of the PAV market from single/two seaters CTOL to more complex high speed and performance 6-8 seater-near VTOL.

Canada, our great neighbors ( allies in technology and energy) to the North, has opened the door to permit economic start-up production of these high technology/ high performance PAV vehicles. In addition to regulatory flexibility to permit economic start-up/ production, I anticipate Canada will further facilitate private capital formation incentives in early 2008. Canada now has their Ronald Reagan to spur innovation and investment, creating a raising tide.

On one hand, NASA/DARPA Bushnell/Moore/Hahn have identified various new PAV viable modes of transportation with high cruise speed and efficiency (My PAV performance specs are 500 to 1,000 pounds payload, 500 to 1000 mile range, 200 to 400mph speed), But unfortunately there exists an evil-evil-evil counter agency trying to destroy this Canadian initative for innovation /high performance PAVs (one to six seaters).

This is a classic confrontation between innovation and
antitechnology (really anticompetition/don't disrupt the existing marketplace). In the name of safety, these guys would have arrested the Wright Brothers in Dayton when they announced plans for their first flight in December. I am hopeful this evil-evil- evil counter agency will realize that they will merely be opening the door for others to dominate this market. Will the PAV history show another example of born and killed in the USA?????? It is very unfortunate that PAV technology may be developed elsewhere, and brought to us in 2012 to save us from the perfect 2012 storm.

Mel Kosanchick
31 Old Ridge Road
St Albans, Missouri, USA 63073

[email protected]


mel kosanchick,

Why not telepresence? can't get any faster then being virtually anywhere else in the world nearly instantaneously. By 2012 there might not be enough fuel to power our cars and planes to experience a gridlock let alone a personal gas guzzling flying car.


Bring back Ekranoplan/Wingship/Flarecraft - far more efficent than cars and aircraft. Sadly those pioneers are getting very old now.


Sounds like fun. But considering the hurdles to overcome the prize money is very skimpy. If you tune in to the current state of the art in electric powered RC models - you get a few ideas of how these things might fly. But of course we'd have to produce electric on board or wait for a huge increase in energy density of EESUs.

Ben's suggestion is oddly more practical. Easier to teleport than transport matter.


To the doubters:
Today's GPS and topo database offer us all-weather synthetic vision in the cockpit. Computers offer us superb sensor tech, de-conflicted traffic path automation and autopilot capability. We already have 70 MPG 2 seat aircraft that fly 150 mph and quiet props that can propel inaudible aircraft. The new NASA flight competition aims to converge all these into a vehicle that runs on electrons or carbon-neutral biofuel, is immune to gridlock, and does not require that we pave the planet. The 100 MPG car, stuck in gridlock, seems ridiculous by comparison.


Brien, you make it sound so easy. We already struggle provide enough clean energy for our t.v.'s, let alone a flying car.

By the way, there's one thing that people easily forget: if we all have a 70mpg flying car, total fuel consumption will increase because we will compensate the shortened trip times with more and longer trips.

Harvey D

Our 16-25 year old drivers/flyers would have new emotion filled air games.

Electric versions may be around within a few years.

Fun times ahead...

Alex Kovnat

I clicked on the links to Andrew Hahn's and Mark Moore's papers, but they didn't work.

I'm concerned that not only will PAV's consume a lot of fuel, but also you're going to have a lot of accidents involving testosterone-charged young males who don't even have enough discipline to handle cars, let alone airplanes.

Mark Moore

If you have trouble with the links above to the research papers, go to


and scroll down to NASA papers. Many of our papers are located there, but there are news being added all the time.

I understand the skepticism of the general public. But please realize this - we are quite well educated and have looked at the market barriers and technology gaps much more carefully than anyone else, that is. While initially I also had my doubts, I can say that the more I have investigated the possibilities, the more I understand that this future will develop, it's just a matter of time and funding. It really isn't as difficult as many suspect, and the societal rewards are quite large.

While we are at the early stages of development, I believe electric propulsion will be a key catalyst in achieving this vision. Frankly, I have no interest in this vision if it's going to use more fuel and be less efficient that autos (as current small aircraft are). But this simply won't be the case. These small aircraft can and will achieve over 100 mpg at speeds over 100 mph, providing us much greater productivity and better use of resources.

Why be so dismissive of the possibilities - because you are simply putting yourself in the same category of people who dismissed automobiles when the horse was THE means of transportation. Things will change, the auto will progress for something better (at least for longer trip distances).

Being stuck with todays mobility problems is cerrtainly not something to hope for...





The comments to this entry are closed.