Solar Impulse – the solar-powered airplane of Swiss pioneers Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg – has successfully landed at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. In so doing, it begins a new era in the history of aviation: for the first time, a plane capable of flying day and night powered exclusively by solar energy has crossed the USA from the west to the east coasts, without using a single drop of fuel.
Solar Impulse's Mission Across America began in San Francisco on May 3, and made stops in Phoenix, Dallas-Fort Worth, St. Louis (where the plane's inflatable hangar was used for the firs time), Cincinnati and Washington D.C. The 3,511-mile (5,530-km) trip took a total of 105 hours and 41 minutes in the air, for an average speed of 33.14 mph (53.34 km/h).
The flight ended at New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport on July 6 at 11:09 pm local time. The pilot for this final leg of the voyage was Borschberg, who had alternated with Piccard throughout the journey.
While Solar Impulse succeeded in finishing the cross-country flight, during the flight from Washington D.C. to New York its left wing suffered an 8-foot (2.5-m) rip in the wing fabric on the lower wing surface. Inspection by helicopter while in flight led to the conclusion that the rip was stable, and would not prevent the mission from proceeding.
After catching their collective breaths, the next set of tasks for the Solar Impulse team is to build and test the next-generation of the solar-powered aircraft. The HB-SIB will be larger and heavier, comprising a pressurized cockpit to allow cruising at altitudes up to 39,000 feet (12 km). Advanced avionics will allow the HB-SIB to safely navigate the airways on transcontinental and transoceanic flights. HB-SIB test flights are likely to begin in 2014.
Source: Solar Impulse