Only about 170,000 personal planes are registered to fly in the U.S., a pittance compared with the nation's 244 million cars. But Seeley believes that personal aviation can free us from gridlock. "It's time to get off the pavement," he says. "The goal of the Green Prize is to bring forth a consumer-popular vehicle that transforms the way we move"—trading traffic jams for what he calls "the wormhole in the sky."
Seeley and Moore, the co-creators of the Green Prize, envision a future in which people own or rent inexpensive PAVs, user-friendly planes for quick hops of 50 to 500 miles from one neighborhood airstrip to the next. To help make that happen, NASA is funding a five-year "Centennial Challenge" program of annual CAFE-run competitions, including the Green Prize, to encourage PAV technology. Last year's inaugural competition featured awards for handling, noise reduction and overall performance.