On May 1, two solar aviation pioneers at Solar Impulse are going to attempt what has never been done before — a coast-to-coast flight across America, from California’s Moffett Federal Airfield near San Francisco to Washington (and then on to New York), powered only by sunlight.
They will not expend an ounce of fuel during the entire journey, and will be able to fly at both day and night, when the disappearing sun will effectively turn the one-seat plane covered with 12,000 solar cells into a subzero refrigerator. The epic journey – which the two co-founders and pilots of Solar Impulse (Solar Impulse CEO Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg) are calling Mission 2013: Across America – could help to usher in a new era of aviation powered by renewable energy sources, much as Charles Lindbergh’s celebrated non-stop, solo flight across the Atlantic from New York to Paris spurred the launch of the era of modern commercial aviation.
It is all the more remarkable that Across America is just the latest step in the march toward the ultimate goal – an around-the-world solar-powered flight in 20 days and 20 nights, scheduled for 2015. Along the way, the Solar Impulse team has racked up an impressive number of firsts – the first day-and-night flight for a solar-powered plane, the first European flight in a solar-powered plane and the first intercontinental trip (Europe to Africa) in a solar-powered plane. And they’re doing it all in an incredibly light airplane that weighs less than an SUV but has the massive wingspan of a jumbo jet.
For the complete story by Dominic Basulto of The Washington Post, click here.
Photo by Solar Impulse