The first Pulitzer Electric Aircraft Race, planned for May 2023, will be a four day, 1,000 nm cross-country event beginning in Omaha, NE and ending near Kitty Hawk, NC. The race will be hosted by the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) and open to piloted aerodynes of all types using zero-emission electric propulsion (e.g., fixed wing aeroplanes, helicopters, or multi-rotor eVTOL Advanced Air Mobility [AAM] vehicles). 

Pulitzer Trophy | National Air and Space Museum

Because many of the potential competitors may be in a research and development phase and using experimental aircraft, the race will be a day only, Visual Flight Rules (VFR) event. The race winner will be the pilot/crew with the fastest speed calculated from the cumulative flight time, not including time on the ground for maintenance, charging, or overnight stays. The specific race rules have been developed by the NAA Pulitzer Race Committee and are available here.

The cross-country format, rather than a closed-circuit speed event, was selected to emphasize electric aircraft range and reliability, in addition to speed, in a realistic operating environment. A cross-country race will require careful logistical planning from the race teams and highlight different electric propulsion technology choices and operational strategies such as rapid battery charging, whole battery changes, and solar power augmentation to extend range. As a long distance, multi-day cross-country event open to all classes and types of electric aircraft, we have designed the Pulitzer Electric Aircraft Race to provide an open canvas for design innovations and be a flying expo for the electric aviation industry. 

Why it’s important: The electric aircraft industry has been rapidly expanding in terms of technological readiness and the number of potential race contestants. The air race will be a resumption of the Pulitzer air races first held in the early 1920s, and the winner of the race awarded the Pulitzer Trophy (on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC) at a suitable NAA awards event. Even more important, the winning aircraft will receive strong publicity and prospective future consumers and commercial operators will subsequently view the aircraft and its manufacturer as a leader in the industry.

Posted by Naish Gaubatz