Solar Impulse plane’s trans-America bid continues


Solar Impulse plane’s trans-America bid continues

Solar Impulse plane taking off from Phoenix The flight from Phoenix to Dallas is expected to take about 18 hours

The Solar Impulse solar-powered plane has set off on the second leg of its trans-American journey.

It took off at 04:47 local time (12:47 BST) from Phoenix, Arizona on Wednesday, bound for Dallas, Texas.

The craft will also stop over in St Louis and Washington DC before heading to New York in early July.

It has the same wingspan as an Airbus A340 but at a weight of just 1.6 tonnes, its backers hope to show off the capabilities of renewable energy.

By comparison, a fully laden A340 weighs about 370 tonnes.

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The Solar Impulse HB-SIA

Solar impulse plane infographic
  • Wingspan – 63m (208ft)
  • Weight – 1,600kg (3,500lb)
  • Covered with 11,628 solar cells
  • Carries 400kg (900lb) of lithium-ion batteries
  • Maximum cruising altitude of 8,500m (28,000ft)

The Across America bid is the first cross-continental flight of a solar-powered plane.

It is the last showpiece with the prototype aircraft before the Solar Impulse co-founders and pilots, Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, attempt a trans-oceanic flight and an eventual around-the-world flight in 2015.

Solar Impulse already holds records for the first night flight of a solar-powered craft in 2010, the first international flight in 2011, and first inter-continental flight in 2012.

The plane’s wing and stabiliser are covered with nearly 12,000 solar cells, which drive its four propellers and charge the plane’s 400kg of lithium-ion batteries for night-time flying.

The plane completed its first leg, between San Francisco and Phoenix in early May, in a flight lasting 18 hours.

The two Swiss pilots will alternate on different legs of the journey; Wednesday’s flight, due to last about 18 hours, is being piloted by Andre Borschberg.

The Across America bid coincides with the pair’s Clean Generation Initiative, an effort to encourage policy-makers and businesses to develop and adopt sustainable energy technologies.

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