Solar Plane Flies Coast To Coast

Mike TuttleTechnology

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According to a report in Live Science, a solar-powered plane has made a trans-continental flight tour across the United States, starting in San Francisco, stopping in several cites, before landing at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

The aircraft, called Solar Impulse, is the first aircraft capable of flying day and night without fuel. The ultra-lightweight plane is powered by a combination of solar panels and onboard batteries, which enables it to charge during the day and then run on battery power at night.

There was a minor glitch on the last leg of Solar Impulse's tour. Pictures from a nearby helicopter showed an 8-foot long tear in a fabric used on the plane. The tear did not affect the flying of the plane, but the pilots decided to land earlier than they had planned anyway, just to check things out.

Two pilots, André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, took turns flying the plane. They are also co-founders of the project, which is part of a larger initiative called "Clean Generation", which is intended to demonstrate the capabilities of sustainable energy projects like this. The "Clean Generation" initiative also has the support of Hollywood director James Cameron, British entrepreneur Richard Branson, former Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin, and environmentalist and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.

Speaking of the fabric tear that forced a decision to land early, pilot Piccard said, "It's already amazing to have had so little problems. Normally on a prototype, you make a flight and you have to change a lot of things. Solar Impulse has been extremely reliable, and what failed today was a piece of fabric. The plane is built for energy savings, energy efficiency, solar cells and batteries, and it's a normal piece of fabric that failed. So at the end, it really emphasizes the reliability of all the electrical systems that we built on the Solar Impulse prototype."

[photo credit: Live Science]
Mike Tuttle

Google+ Writer for WebProNews.