Flush with success from their 6,000-km (3,728-mile) Europe-to-Africa round-trip flight earlier this year, the duo behind the Solar Impulse solar-powered aircraft are now planning on flying it across America next spring. It will mark the first time that a solar-powered plane has traversed the country.
Solar Impulse partners Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg made the official announcement this Tuesday, although the logistics of the flight have yet to be finalized. They have stated that the trip will be broken into 20-hour legs, starting at San Francisco and proceeding to New York City. As with their previous multi-leg flights, the two pilots will take turns flying the aircraft.
According to a report on Inhabitat, the Solar Impulse airplane (officially known as the HB-SIA) will be taken apart at its home base in Switzerland next March. It will then be packed into containers, flown in a 747 to California, and then reassembled over the course of three weeks. It is due to take off from San Francisco sometime in May.
The single-passenger 1,600-kg (3,527-lb) aircraft incorporates 11,628 solar cells on the top of its wing and horizontal stabilizer. These power its four 10-hp electric motors, and also charge its 400 kilograms (882 lbs) of lithium batteries – allowing it to fly at night. A new aircraft, the HB-SIB, is being developed for a round-the-world flight planned for 2015.
Update: It has been pointed out to us that the Sunseeker I solar-powered aircraft flew from Southern California to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in 1990.