June 17, 2010
AOPA ePublishing staff
The Solar Impulse team is preparing to tackle one of solar power’s biggest challenges: night.
The team has a goal of flying around the globe without using a drop of fossil fuel. That means the solar panels on the aircraft must gather and store enough energy during the day to propel the aircraft through the night.
The Solar Impulse prototype, which has a 208-foot wingspan and weighs a little more than 3,500 pounds, made its first flight April 7. Propelled by four 10-hp electric engines, it gathers energy from solar cells on the wings and horizontal stabilizer and flies at an average speed of 38 knots.
Early this month, the prototype flew for four hours and 50 minutes, its longest flight thus far. The team reported that this was the aircraft’s first energy-positive flight. “This means, as Claude Nicollier stated, that ‘we came back with significant more energy than we took off with,’” wrote Martin Reichlin in a blog.
Collaboration between the German government, academia, and airplane manufacturers may make future aircraft cabins more protective of pilots and passengers. The Safety Box team plans to apply auto racing technology to general aviation.
A father and his 14-year-old son were helping another pilot ferry a newly purchased aircraft from California to their home field in Virginia. The three made an overnight stop in Albuquerque before flying on to Illinois for fuel. But shortly after they parked the aircraft in Marion, Ill., they were approached by as many as 18 uniformed and non-uniformed law enforcement officers who came running toward the airplane.
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