Lindbergh Grandson Launches Incentive Prizes for Advances in Electric Aircraft and Green Aviation

As paragliders and hang gliders swooped overhead, the grandson of famed aviator Charles “Lucky Lindy” Lindbergh chose a stunning panoramic San Diego clifftop to announce the formation of a new incentive prize to recognize advancements in electric aircraft technology.

Seattle-area resident Erik Lindbergh says the Lindbergh Electric Aircraft Prize, or LEAP, is intended to stimulate the development of more environmentally friendly aviation technologies, and help the fledgling electric aircraft industry take off. Lindbergh LEAPLindbergh created the prize, which actually consists of awards in four categories, through a nonprofit organization he founded, the Creative Solutions Alliance (CSA), which has partnered with the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA). The four LEAP awards, which have yet to be funded, will be awarded annually at the EAA’s annual AirVenture “fly-in,” the popular air show held each July in Oshkosh, WI.

Organizers also have arranged for students and teachers from a Seattle-area high school to participate in the process and attend the awards ceremony in Oshkosh this summer. Lindbergh says six students and six teachers from Aviation High School, a project-based magnet school in Des Moines, WA, just south of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, will attend in a bid to develop curriculum and stimulate student interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Lindbergh is a founding board member of the high school, which was started in 2004.

In introducing the prize, Lindbergh says it represents “the culmination of my work, from the aviation world to the education world, to the world of prize philanthropy.” He adds, “It represents the germination of an idea that I really want to take around the world.”

Now if he can just find someone to fund the prize. “What we need now are sponsors to step forward, that want to be involved in aviation and in education,” Lindbergh says.

Lindbergh, who works as a commercial pilot, flight instructor, artist, public speaker, and publicist, says that while he has a Parasail at Torrey Pines Gliderportgreat name, he had to borrow $10,000 from his mom to get the CSA and LEAP programs started. The son of Jon Lindbergh and Barbara Robbins also serves as chairman and director of the Lindbergh Foundation, and serves as a member of the board of trustees for the X Prize Foundation, the Los Angeles-based nonprofit that boosted the development of private spacecraft by organizing the Ansari X Prize. The $10 million prize was claimed by SpaceShipOne, a rocket plane designed by aerospace legend Burt Rutan and his Mojave, CA-based company, Scaled Composites, with extensive financial backing from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

Lindbergh provided this outline of the four awards that make up the Lindbergh Electric Aircraft Prize:

Best Electric Aircraft, with emphasis on practicality. The design can be experimental, light sport aircraft, or certified. Hybrid electric aircraft will be eligible as long as the aircraft’s primary propulsion is electric. The Chevrolet Volt, for example, uses an internal combustion engine as a range extender, but is powered by a pure electric power train.

Best Electric Aircraft Sub-System, which is defined as a set of components designed to work together to accomplish a specific task. The system must advance the field of electric aircraft in both performance and practicality—for example, electric powertrains, energy storage systems, and charging systems.

Best Electric Aircraft Component Technology, which is defined as a component that advances the performance and practicality of electric aircraft. For example, electric motor, batteries, and power electronics.

Public Choice Award, which enables the public to vote on any electric aircraft that are currently flying, regardless of cost or practicality. Lindbergh says the award offers an opportunity to gauge the public’s interest and excitement among various electric aircraft projects.

Lindbergh’s grandparents, Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, had historic ties to San Diego. Charles Lindbergh made his historic solo flight from New York to Paris in 1927, flying the Spirit of St. Louis, a single-engine plane made in San Diego by Ryan Airlines. Erik Lindbergh says made today’s announcement at the Torrey Pines Gliderport, a city-owned park on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, because both Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh set aviation records by flying fixed-wing gliders along the coast here in 1930.

Charles Lindbergh was 28 and had been famous for nearly three years when he flew a bungie-launched Bowlus sailplane from Mount Soledad to Del Mar on Feb 24, 1930. The 30-minute flight set a regional distance record for glider flight, which was about 10 miles, according to amateur historian Gary Fogel. Anne Morrow Lindbergh made a roughly 10-minute flight in a Bowlus sailplane that was launched from Mt. Soledad on Jan 29, 1930. She received the first first-class glider license awarded to a woman, Fogel says.

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Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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