Feather-light Solar Impulse makes first flight

April 7, 2010

Solar Impulse Clockwise from Top: test pilot Markus Scherdel, Solar Impulse Chairman and initiator Bertrand Piccard, and André Borschberg, CEO and co-founder of the project

Thousands of spectators watched as the all-electric Solar Impulse, a forerunner of a design that will circle the world using solar power, made its first flight from Payerne, Switzerland, April 7 at 4:27 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

Solar Impulse HB-SIA slowly climbed to 4,000 feet. For the next 87 minutes, Solar Impulse test pilot Markus Scherdel familiarized himself with the prototype’s flight characteristics.

“This first flight was for me a very intense moment!” said Solar Impulse test pilot Markus Scherdel. “The HB-SIA behaved just as the flight simulator told us. Despite its immense size and feather weight, the aircraft’s controllability matches our expectations.” Solar Impulse CEO André Borschberg said the flight gave planners confidence for the rest of the program.

“We still have a long way to go until the night flights and an even longer way before flying round the world, but today, thanks to the extraordinary work of an entire team, an essential step towards achieving our vision has been taken,” said Solar Impulse chairman and founder Bertrand Piccard. “Our future depends on our ability to convert rapidly to the use of renewable energies. Solar Impulse is intended to demonstrate what can be done already today by using these energies and applying new technologies that can save natural resources.”

Al Marsh

Alton K. Marsh | "AOPA Pilot" Senior Editor, AOPA

AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.