Aviation - Avions NASA-Prototypes
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Technicians make final adjustments on the solar-powered Pathfinder remotely piloted research aircraft prior to the craft's taking off on a flight which established a new unofficial world's altitude record for both propellor-driven and solar-powered aircraft. The new record of more than 71,500 feet was set during a 14 1/2-hour flight July 7, 1997, from the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) at Barking Sands, Kauai, Hawaii. The new altitude record is subject to verification by the National Aeronautics Association. The Pathfinder took off at 8:34 a.m. HDT, passed its previous record altitude of 67,350 feet about 2:45 p.m., and then reached its new mark at about 4 p.m. Controllers on the ground then initiated a slow decent, and Pathfinder landed seven hours later at 11:05 p.m. HDT. The experimental Boeing Condor remotely-piloted aircraft had held the previous record for propellor-driven craft of 67,028 feet. The Pathfinder had exceeded that height on a previous flight on June 9, 1997, but not by a large enough margin to be considered a new record.