Solar-powered plane off to good start on its first cross-continental trip

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, May 3, 2013 14:00 EDT
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The Solar Impulse plane is seen at a press conference at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California on March 28, 2013. (AFP)
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A solar airplane took off Friday from California on its first attempt at a cross-country trip across the United States.

“Solar Impulse has successfully taken off from Moffett Air Field,” a traffic control operator said as the plane left the runway in the morning sunrise, describing it as a “perfect take-off.”

Piloted by Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard, the plane is scheduled arrive in Phoenix, Arizona later tonight.

It will also stay over in Dallas, Texas and the US capital Washington, before arriving in New York in early July.

The journey allows for up to 10 days at each stop in order to showcase the plane’s technology to the public.

The plane could make the flight non-stop — which would take approximately three days, traveling at the aircraft’s cruising speed of around 43 miles (70 kilometers) per hour, its creators said.

But with space for only one pilot and the intensive task of navigating the ultra-light but ultra-long plane through turbulence, Solar Impulse decided, for safety reasons, to break the flight up into multiple stages.

That will allow two pilots — Piccard and his co-founder, Swiss engineer and ex-fighter pilot Andre Borschberg — to share duties and rest between legs.

The Solar Impulse plane has already made several trips, including a 26-hour flight in 2010, but this will mark its first trip across a continent.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
AFP journalists cover wars, conflicts, politics, science, health, the environment, technology, fashion, entertainment, the offbeat, sports and a whole lot more in text, photographs, video, graphics and online.
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