Tuesday, February 21, 2012
It's An LSA World
Fun, useful, life-changing: LSA proving themselves at work and play
XC For Fun And Profit
Another notable LSA cross-country flight had a very different genesis: the chance to win more than a million bucks! Jim Lee wrangles Phoenix Air USA out of Melbourne, Fla., and brings the word of LSA motorgliding to the masses with his amazing Phoenix. He has sold 15 in the last year or so it has been on the market.
Last year, he was all set to fly the all-electric version of the Phoenix in the NASA Green Flight Challenge. When 11th-hour battery problems from a Chinese supplier sank the dream of winning the $1.35 million prize, he did the next best thing by flying the Rotax-powered Phoenix to California to compete anyway.
He knew there was no way he could fly the contest challenge of 200 miles on two gallons of gas (one gallon per 100 miles per passenger). "But I thought there was no way any electric could either! I thought I might be the only one to finish the race, and could have some fun, see these strange electric aircraft and hang out with old soaring friends," Lee says.
Lee's copilot was Jeff Shingleton. "We visited a few customers on the way. I sold two airplanes!" Lee adds. "So it was worthwhile before I even made California. It took us 18 flight hours—2,100 nm against the wind."
Of course, no soaring pilot worth his speed brakes can pass up soaring opportunities. "Once we soared parallel to an unusual convergence cloud 1,000 feet AGL, I just couldn't resist," says Lee. Another time, he also soared a sea-breeze convergence line 10 miles out over San Francisco Bay.
The contest was comprised of two flights of 200 miles each. The first was an economy run. "Jeff and I made jokes on the flight about how any minute we'd see electric planes landing in fields below, out of juice. But those airplanes vastly exceeded their expectations."
And how did his gas-powered Phoenix do? "We had a 94.3 passenger miles per gallon result," Lee replies. That's not bad at all when you consider total fuel burn for the 186.7 official course distance was just 3.82 gallons. The winning number belonged to Pipistrel, which burned the electric equivalent of 1.94 gallons...and carried four people!
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