Print 13 comment(s) - last by lelias2k.. on Jul 11 at 8:27 PM

It flew from San Francisco to New York

Planes make trips across the U.S. all the time. Nothing too special, right? Except a solar-powered one just traveled cross-country for the first time.

The Solar Impulse, which is a solar-powered plane, traveled from San Francisco in early May to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. It finally landed at 11:09 p.m. last Saturday night.

What took the plane so long, you ask? It made stops in between San Francisco and New York in cities such as Phoenix, Dallas-Fort Worth, Dulles, St. Louis and Cincinnati.

The Solar Impulse is equipped with about 11,000 solar cells on a pair of jumbo wings. It would fly from early morning to late at night, collecting sunlight for a completely fuel-free flight. The aircraft would reach 30,000 feet off the ground at a top speed of 45 mph. 

The Solar Impulse is about the size of a small car, running only on the power equivalent to a "small motorized scooter" according to The Washington Post

While the plane successfully made it to New York, the flight wasn't perfect. An eight-foot tear on the lower left side of the wing occurred during the last leg of the trip, which was discovered in New Jersey. The Solar Impulse was supposed to pass the Statue of Liberty before landing, but issues with the tear caused the plane to have to land three hours early at JFK instead. 

“It was a huge success for renewable energy,” said Andre Borschberg, pilot of the Solar Impulse. “The only thing that failed was a piece of fabric.”

This flight was a test before developing a more advanced version, which will make a trip around the world in 2015. 

Source: The Washington Post

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By Reclaimer77 on 7/9/2013 1:04:42 AM , Rating: 2
Sooo you basically have a glorified glider, and can make unlimited stops just to cross the U.S?

Not impressed. Wake me up when you can match this with your alternative energy.

RE: Golfclap
By daboom06 on 7/9/2013 1:13:56 AM , Rating: 2
yea, i dont know why they stopped so often. they logged a 26 hour flight, so why not just go nonstop? this is something left out of all the press releases i've seen so far.

RE: Golfclap
By FaaR on 7/9/2013 5:56:00 AM , Rating: 2
Can you cross continental US in one day at 45mph? I guess not... :P

...So, there's your answer why they stopped.

RE: Golfclap
By hughlle on 7/9/2013 6:30:29 AM , Rating: 5
I think he might have been alluding to the fact that if they flew for 26 hours then they flew through the dark period as well, and if that is the case, then they could have just continued flying through the next daylight period.

So far as i'm concerned, the notion of them flying a solar powered plane across the USA is just a marketing spin. What they did was fly a solar powered plane from A to B and B to C and C to D and so on. A completely different "achievement" to having flown from SF to NY. Like saying i bent my legs, and i jumped from SF to NY, we'll just ignore the fact that i had to land and jump again many times in the process.

RE: Golfclap
By Moishe on 7/9/2013 10:13:03 AM , Rating: 2
You've hit the nail on the head.

The title makes it seem like it was done in one trip.

RE: Golfclap
By lelias2k on 7/11/2013 8:27:19 PM , Rating: 2
Didn't they stop in multiple cities to give presentations about the plane/technology?

RE: Golfclap
By mars2k on 7/9/2013 12:35:42 PM , Rating: 2
Dude, 45 hr.s going east, do the math. How many daylight hr.s available under those conditions. How many hr.s would that pilot loose to the earth’s rotation? This is Solar the plane uses Sunlight to power its props.

RE: Golfclap
By Solandri on 7/9/2013 1:37:25 PM , Rating: 2
These planes have batteries on board to store up energy during the day for use at night. That's how they managed a solar-powered flight of a continuous 26 hours.

The real reason they couldn't just do SFO-JFK in one go is that it only has sufficient weight capacity to carry one person - the pilot. And the pilot can't stay awake long enough to make the entire trip non-stop. Well, I suppose he could try to stay awake the entire time, or he could take naps while the computer flies the plane. But both are unreasonable and unnecessary risks. Remember, Lindbergh nearly died on his transatlantic flight because he fell asleep (33 hour flight). If they can increase the payload capacity to carry two pilots, then they might be able to do it non-stop, like on Voyager's non-stop circumnavigation flight.

In that respect, this is not really a big deal in terms of solar powered flight. It's already been done 10-20 years ago, with the longest flight (336 hours) 3 years ago. The only thing notable about the plane in the article is that it had sufficient payload capacity to carry a pilot.

RE: Golfclap
By Mint on 7/9/2013 9:55:07 AM , Rating: 2
Have a little patience. It'll get there.

It has already flown through the night from energy stored in the batteries, and was in the air for a 26 hour continuous flight. I don't know if there was enough surplus solar energy during the day to charge during the night or whether the plane left the ground with a full battery, but the two scenarios aren't that far apart.

Once they do enough flights to be confident in reliability, they'll match the Rutan Voyager and even surpass it. Circumnavigating the earth is already in their near term plans.

I think it'd be a pretty remarkable feat to go airborne for indefinite periods of time without needing to go into orbit.

RE: Golfclap
By Solandri on 7/9/2013 1:45:20 PM , Rating: 2
PV solar efficiency will have to get substantially better before they can circumnavigate the globe. Planes are typically built with a safety factor of 1.5 (you calculate how strong the parts have to be to withstand maximum estimated loading, then build them 1.5x stronger). Experimental aircraft that carry people sometimes push this down to 1.25. Unmanned aircraft and missiles can push this down to about 1.1.

That they experienced a tear in the wing during the flight indicates they were really close to a 1.0 safety margin. It's plausible to fly a person in something with that small a safety margin if it's done over land. But no way do you want to be doing it over water. So PV efficiency will have to get better so they can build a more robust plane before safe transoceanic flights are feasible.

I think it'd be a pretty remarkable feat to go airborne for indefinite periods of time without needing to go into orbit.

That was already accomplished back in the 1990s with solar powered UAVs. This solar plane is notable in that it carries (or can carry) a pilot.

RE: Golfclap
By Mint on 7/9/2013 2:05:34 PM , Rating: 2
This plane is pretty slow (30 mph), so I'm guessing they'll have water support along the way in case of an emergency.

That was already accomplished back in the 1990s with solar powered UAVs. This solar plane is notable in that it carries (or can carry) a pilot.
Are you sure? I googled it and seems that solar UAVs are a pretty recent thing:

Even non-solar UAVs haven't stayed up for very long:

Anyway, I was implying manned flight. Obviously food, waste, and sleep are things that need to be addressed, but it'll be a cool milestone if we can finally beat nature at such a feat:

Impressive for a fragile plane.
By BRB29 on 7/9/2013 9:58:10 AM , Rating: 2
The Solar Impulse, which is a solar-powered plane, traveled from San Francisco in early May to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. It finally landed at 11:09 p.m. last Saturday night.

Early May! holy crap! I think it's more impressive that they didn't give up.

By Solandri on 7/9/2013 1:47:36 PM , Rating: 2
Given that they experienced a tear in the wing, my guess would be they have very slim safety margins and the plane can only fly in "perfect" weather. So it spent most of the time on the ground while they waited for "perfect" weather conditions along each next flight leg.

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