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Solar Plane Lands after 26 Hours Non-Stop

Credits: ©2010 BBC Online

The Solar Impulse experimental solar-powered aircraft launched on Wednesday, 7 July, 2010 and landed safely slightly more than 26 hours later in Switzerland after successfully flying through the night. The feat is a step toward the makers' aim of circling the globe using the power of the Sun to fuel the plane. The aircraft used super-efficient solar cells and batteries to stay in the air after the Sun's rays had faded. The plane touched down at an airfield about 30 miles (50 km) from the Swiss capital Bern at 0900 (0700 GMT).

 

Solar Impulse over Fields

Solar Impulse's Chief Executive Officer and pilot Andre Borschberg flew in the solar-powered HB-SIA prototype airplane during its first successful night flight attempt at Payerne airport, Thursday, 8 July, 2010. The aircraft took off 7 July at 06:51 am and reached an altitude of 8,700 meters (28,543 feet) by the end of the day. It then slowly descended to 1,500 meters (4,921 feet) and flew during the night on the batteries, charged during the day by 12,000 solar cells, which powered the four electric motors. It landed July 8 at 09.00 am (GMT+2) for a flight time of 26 hours and 9 minutes, setting the longest and highest flight ever made by a solar plane. ©2010 AP Photo/Keystone, Denis Balibouse, Pool

The plane landed at Payerne airport after a total flight time of 26 hours 10 minutes and 19 seconds based on the embedded logger.

During the flight it reached a height of 8,700 m (28,543 ft).

Assistants rushed to stabilise the experimental aircraft as it touched down, ensuring that its huge 63m (207ft) wingspan did not scrape the ground and topple the plane.

It is the longest and highest flight recorded by a solar-powered plane.

The four-engine aircraft was steered by Andre Borschberg, a former fighter jet pilot from Switzerland.

The plane has 12,000 solar cells arranged on its wingspan which collected enough energy to power the plane for the flight.

'Perpetual flight'

Previous flights of Solar Impulse have included a brief "flea hop" and a longer airborne test earlier this year. But this week's attempt was described as a "milestone" by the team.

The designers, the Solar Impulse team led by Mr Borschberg and fellow aviator Bertrand Piccard, say that this proves that a plane can be kept in the air around the clock.

Continue reading the main story

Nothing can prevent us from another day and night, and the myth of perpetual flight

Bertrand Piccard Solar Impulse Solar 24-hour test flight starts

"It's the first time ever that a [manned] solar airplane has flown through the night," Mr Piccard told journalists.

"That was the moment that proved the mission was successful, we made it."

The plane emerged from the darkness of night with three hours power remaining in its batteries, more than had been expected.

The team will now build a new, more advanced, model of the plane.

They aim to circumnavigate the globe by 2013.

Says Bertrand Piccard, "Nothing can prevent us from another day and night, and the myth of perpetual flight."

Precise times are as follows:

- TO PAY runway 05 : wed 07.07.2010 at 04.51 GMT (06.51 LT)


- LDG PAY runway 05 : thur 08.07.2010 at 07.02 GMT (09.02 LT)


Resources

Solar Impulse Lands after 26 Hour Flight Video

Solar Impulse Video Link

Solar Impulse


Videos

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Solar Impulse Takeoff for 24 Hour Flight Video

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Solar Impulse Unveiling Video