By Alton K. Marsh
Now under construction in Switzerland is a four-motor aircraft destined to serve as the prototype of a fragile piloted airplane that will circle the globe on solar power alone.
It will climb during the day to nearly 28,000 feet and descend at night to 3,300 feet. The combined power of the four motors is only 10 horsepower. The cockpit is unpressurized and unheated; engineers are hoping insulation will protect the pilot at the higher altitudes. First it must fly, then cross the Atlantic Ocean.
By 2011 it is hoped the pioneer, Bertrand Piccard, who circled the globe in the Breitling Orbiter 3 balloon, will be able to do the same in his Solar Impulse aircraft, although it will take a month (slower than the balloon).
November 14, 2007