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Solar driven plane flies across America

The Solar Impulse across America flight could indicate whereto aviation is heading in the future, at least on short distances, writes Erik Bergin.

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SOLAR IMPULSE ACROSS AMERICA FLIGHT
Is this the future of aviation: The sound of only the plane’s gear box and the quiet whine of four electric motors. No noisy jet engines. This was the experience that pilot Bertrand Piccard had as he set about to fly across America in a the single-person aircraft Solar Impulse, the Associated Press reported. As the name suggests, the plane is driven by solar energy.

 

Photos Solar Impulse across America

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Piccard piloted the aircraft for 20 hours, first cruising along the California coast after taking off from Moffett Field in Mountain View near San Francisco just after dawn Friday, the AP reported. He passed over Edwards Air Force Base, where other aviation milestones have been made, and then touched down early Saturday morning at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.

The plane’s creators, Piccard and fellow pilot Andre Borschberg, said the trip is the first attempt by a solar airplane capable of flying day and night without fuel to fly across America.

RELATED The project’s website

For a battered airline industry, trying to cope with ever-increasing fuel costs, the idea of an electrical aircraft powered by the sun is a wet dream. However slow-moving, technological development is bound, over time, to make the industry less and less dependent on fossile fuel. And it seems possible, in a far away future, that short distances could be covered by solar-driven planes it the technologies needed are developed further.

The Solar Impulse is propelled by energy collected from 12,000 solar cells built into the wings that simultaneously recharge four large batteries with a storage capacity equivalent to a Tesla electric car that allow it to fly after dark, the Reuters news agency reported.

 

The plane was designed for flights of up to 24 hours at a time and is a test model for a more advanced aircraft the team plans to build to circumnavigate the globe in 2015. It made its first intercontinental flight, from Spain to Morocco, last June.

The project began in 2003 with a 10-year budget of 90 million euros ($112 million), according to Reuters.

 

Fact box Solar Impulse

Solar Impulse is a Swiss long-range solar powered aircraft project being undertaken at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. Wikipedia
First flight: December 3, 2009
Wingspan: 208′ (63 m)
Length: 72′ (22 m)
Cruise speed: 43 mph (70 km/h)
Introduced: June 26, 2009

 

 

 

 

The editor of the Traveling Reporter works as a business news editor, and is a frequent traveler. When not doing any of that, he spends time on his boat and tries to figure out where to travel next. Two of his top destinations are the Philippines and San Francisco. Email Erik! Follow the Traveling Reporter at Stumbleupon, Tumblr, Chime In, Pinterest, Google+, Weibo, Storify, Facebook, Traveldudes, Myspace.