Sun-powered plane completes California test flight (Update)

Apr 19, 2013 by Haven Daley
The Solar Impulse is seen after landing from a test flight at Moffett Field NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., Friday, April 19, 2013. A solar-powered plane that has wowed aviation fans in Europe is set to take an early morning test flight over the San Francisco Bay area. Considered the world's most advanced sun-powered plane, the Solar Impulse is set to take off from Moffett Field in Mountain View at first light for a two-hour practice run leading up to the start of a multi-city, cross-country tour. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

A solar-powered plane that has wowed aviation fans in Europe took to the skies Friday over the San Francisco Bay area in a successful test flight.

Considered the world's most advanced sun-powered plane, the Solar Impulse took off from Moffett Field in Mountain View at first light for a two-hour practice run in advance of a planned multi-city, cross-country tour.

"That's a mythical step in aviation," André Borschberg, one of the plane's pilots and creators, said about flying cross-country. "We are something like between 1915 and 1920, compared to traditional aviation, when pioneers tried these non-stop flights."

He said a flight around the world could occur in two years.

The Solar Impulse lands during a test flight at Moffett Field NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., Friday, April 19, 2013. A solar-powered plane that has wowed aviation fans in Europe is set to take an early morning test flight over the San Francisco Bay area. Considered the world's most advanced sun-powered plane, the Solar Impulse is set to take off from Moffett Field in Mountain View at first light for a two-hour practice run leading up to the start of a multi-city, cross-country tour. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

The Solar Impulse is powered by about 12,000 photovoltaic cells that cover massive wings and charge its batteries, allowing it to fly day and night without jet fuel. It has the wing span of a commercial airplane but the weight of the average family car, making it vulnerable to bad weather.

Its creators say the Solar Impulse is designed to showcase the potential of solar power and will never replace fuel-powered commercial flights. The delicate, single-seat plane cruises around 40 mph and can't fly through clouds.

The Solar Impulse is wheeled into a hangar after a test flight at Moffett Field NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., Friday, April 19, 2013. A solar-powered plane that has wowed aviation fans in Europe is set to take an early morning test flight over the San Francisco Bay area. Considered the world's most advanced sun-powered plane, the Solar Impulse is set to take off from Moffett Field in Mountain View at first light for a two-hour practice run leading up to the start of a multi-city, cross-country tour. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, Solar Impulse co-founder and chairman, said the plane should be ready for the cross-country journey on May 1, depending on the weather.

"We like nice weather. We like sunny days," Borschberg said.

Pilots Bertrand Piccard, left, and André Borschberg speak to reporters after the Solar Impulse landed from a test flight at Moffett Field NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., Friday, April 19, 2013. A solar-powered plane that has wowed aviation fans in Europe is set to take an early morning test flight over the San Francisco Bay area. Considered the world's most advanced sun-powered plane, the Solar Impulse is set to take off from Moffett Field in Mountain View at first light for a two-hour practice run leading up to the start of a multi-city, cross-country tour. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Stops are planned in Phoenix, Dallas, Washington, D.C., and New York. Each flight leg will take 20 to 25 hours, with 10-day stops in each city.

Between Dallas and Washington, the plane will also stop at one of three other cities—Atlanta, Nashville or St. Louis.

The Solar Impulse lands during a test flight at Moffett Field NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., Friday, April 19, 2013. A solar-powered plane that has wowed aviation fans in Europe is set to take an early morning test flight over the San Francisco Bay area. Considered the world's most advanced sun-powered plane, the Solar Impulse is set to take off from Moffett Field in Mountain View at first light for a two-hour practice run leading up to the start of a multi-city, cross-country tour. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Borschberg said the plane's creators are close to being able to launch the non-stop flights needed to go around the world.

Using solar power, "we are close to the notion of perpetual flight," he said.

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PhotonX
5 / 5 (1) Apr 20, 2013
Lovely, but
vulnerable to bad weather,
sure, and
cruises around 40 mph and can't fly through clouds,
naturally. Seems like unseen turbulence could be a killer. Good luck with that around the world flight, though. That's roughly 25,000 / 40 = 625 hours or 26 days to round the planet, assuming no diversions, which there are virtually certain to be. The article doesn't mention the altitude of flight, if it's high enough to fly over many coulds, there's the factor of oxygen to consider, not to mention food and water for this poor pilot. It's sounds more like Around the World in 80 days. Can this plane carry enough to make this possible?
.
I just hope the pilot is wearing a parachute.
.
italba
1 / 5 (1) Apr 21, 2013
They never said "around the world NO STOP" for now.