Aviation - Avions NASA-Prototypes
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The Pathfinder aircraft has set a new unofficial world record for high-altitude flight of over 71,500 feet for solar-powered aircraft at the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility, Kauai, Hawaii. Pathfinder was designed and manufactured by AeroVironment, Inc, of Simi Valley, California, and was operated by the firm under a jointly sponsored research agreement with NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, California. Pathfinder's record-breaking flight occurred July 7, 1997. The aircraft took off at 11:34 a.m. PDT, passed its previous record altitude of 67,350 feet at about 5:45 p.m. and then reached its new record altitude at 7 p.m. The mission ended with a perfect nighttime landing at 2:05 a.m. PDT July 8. The new record is the highest altitude ever attained by a propellor-driven aircraft. Before Pathfinder, the altitude record for propellor-driven aircraft was 67,028 feet, set by the experimental Boeing Condor remotely piloted aircraft.