John McGinnis of Kalispell, Montana, designed this diesel-powered glider plane, which seats five and has 200 horsepower on tap but maintains the efficiency of a glider due to the wing design. The compact 32-foot wingspan contains 144 square feet of wingspan area, according to McGinnis, which is the same wingspan area as a traditional glider with a 46-foot wingspan. McGinnis has tested models so far but will build a full-scale model for the 2011 CAFE Green Flight Challenge.

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But McGinnis’s planes are all about scaling down: “Air travel sucks these days, and I think it is because of the scale. We’ve got huge planes jam-packed with people, that require huge airports and terminals which means many smaller cities are simply skipped over when it comes to aviation travel. I’d prefer planes that held between 20 and 40 people, comfortably, didn’t fly quite so high, and were able to land at smaller airports in smaller cities. I think that is the future, and who knows, this weird design might actually come into play.”

+ CAFE Foundation