July 7, 2010
By Alton K. Marsh
The Solar Impulse lifted off at 12:51 p.m. Eastern time July 7 from Switzerland in an effort to become the first solar-powered aircraft to fly all night on battery power alone.
The aircraft took off from the Payerne airbase with Andé Borscherg, CEO and co-founder of the Solar Impulse project, at the controls.
As this is written the aircraft is starting a climb to nearly 28,000 feet. After sunset the aircraft, designated HB-SIA, will start a slow descent to 5,000 feet by 11 p.m. Swiss time (5 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time). It will continue to fly at that altitude until sunrise when its solar-fed batteries can once again recharge.
The big question is whether the pilot can make efficient use of the battery energy to fly throughout the night. If this mission is successful, it will be the longest and highest flight ever made by a solar plane. Watch the pilot’s progress on the Solar Impulse website.
Aircraft Power and Fuel
Fourteen hours and four minutes after departing Cincinnati, Solar Impulse landed at Washington Dulles International Airport. The aircraft landed at 12:15 a.m. Eastern June 16.
There was a moment on the flight of the solar-cell and battery-powered Solar Impulse when Swiss pilot Bertrand Piccard thought clouds might rob his aircraft of power.
Solar Impulse will fly from Dallas/Fort Worth to St. Louis June 3 despite a hangar at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport that was damaged by tornadoes.