Plane Powered by Solar Energy Completes Trek Across U.S.
July 9, 2013 12:24 AM
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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.
, 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
,” 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.
The Washington Post
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7/9/2013 1:37:25 PM
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.
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