Across America In 105 Hours
redOrbit recently reported on the cross-country flight of an all solar-powered plane. The plane is an invention of Solar Impulse and is a zero-fuel plane. The pilots were Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borshberg. “Borschberg, co-founder and CEO of Solar Impulse, landed the HB-SIA prototype at JFK on Saturday, July 6 at 11:09 p.m. EDT, three hours earlier than scheduled. Scheduled for a 2:00 a.m. landing, Borschberg decided to come in early after noticing a tear in the fabric on the lower side of the left wing.”
Across America 2013 began in early May and consisted of five stages:
- San Francisco, California, to Phoenix, Arizona
- Phoenix, Arizona, to Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas (which broke the record for longest flight in a zero-fuel plane at 832 miles)
- Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, to St. Louis, Missouri (Here they had to utilize “a revolutionary inflatable hangar, designed and developed by Solar Impulse” because of storm damage to a St. Louis International Airport hangar.)
- St. Louis, Missouri, to Washington DC with a brief break at Cincinnati, Ohio, because as the article explains, “the Solar Impulse team decided the flight needed to be broken into two stages due to strong headwinds and crosswinds that would make it difficult to complete the leg in less than 24 hours.”
- Finally, Washington DC to JFK International Airport in New York.
The last leg, DC to JFK was supposed to be the easiest, but as the Huffington Post reports, “It was supposed to be the shortest and easiest leg,” Piccard said. “It was the most difficult one.” This is because one of the wings had a tear in the fabric and the lack of air brakes meant more turbulence, which meant more damage to the fabric.
The plane itself has 11,000 solar cells on its extra-long wings, which is what powers it day and night. That’s right; the plane flew at night as well because it was able to store up energy from those 11,000 cells. On average it flew about 28.8 knots, which is about 33 miles per hour, flying at about 30,000 feet. The team covered 3511 miles in 105 hours and 41 minutes.
Across America 2013 was not just a successful feat. It also taught the Solar Impulse team some great lessons about their plans. As Piccard said, ““Flying coast-to-coast has always been a mythical milestone full of challenges for aviation pioneers. During this journey, we had to find solutions for a lot of unforeseen situations, which obliged us to develop new skills and strategies. In doing so, we also pushed the boundaries of clean technologies and renewable energies to unprecedented levels.”
What a wonderful moment for the Solar Impulse team and for the future of zero-fuel planes. Solar Impulse plans a 2015 World Tour where the zero-fuel, solar-powered plane will travel around the world and back. With the success of the Across America 2013, I can’t wait for the World Tour!
This is really exciting for the future of zero-fuel air travel!
Image Credit: Solar Impulse |Revillard| Rezo.ch