3. Flying Solar-Powered Airplanes: Soaring High on Spirit and Systems

by Alexander Laufer, Edward Hoffman, and Don Cohen

I Was the Enemy

“‘Where’s the rest of the plane?’ That was my reaction when I saw the Pathfinder,” says Jenny Baer-Riedhart, program manager at the Dryden Flight Research Center, NASA’s Center for aeronautical research located in California. “I had just been named program manager and was seeing the plane up close for the first time. I had to ask, ‘Will it fly?’ It was an odd-looking bird.”

Pathfinder was AeroVironment’s solar-powered airplane and one of four aircrafts that were part of NASA’s Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology (ERAST) program launched at the end of 1994. It was constructed of state-of-the-art ...

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