Meet the visiting pilots of the breakthrough solar airplane set to fly around the world—without fuel.
Solar Impulse Makes History
After 26 continuous hours in flight, pilot André Borschberg emerges from an airplane cockpit the size of a bathtub to the attention of the world. Solar Impulse is the first solar-powered aircraft ever to fly at night.
The plane took off from Payerne, Switzerland, on Wednesday, July 7th, in the early morning hours and soared to an altitude of 28,000 feet throughout the day, fully charging the 12,000 solar cells held on its massive, 210-foot wingspan. The carbon fiber craft weighs only as much as a medium-sized car and stayed aloft through the night, touching down on the morning of July 8th. Its previous flight lasted only 87 minutes.
“It was unbelievable,” Borschberg told the press. With fellow Solar Impulse co-founder and adventurer, Bertrand Piccard, Borschberg announced, “It’s only the beginning.”
After six years in development with help from sponsors and scientific advisor EPFL, Solar Impulse now proves that a solar plane can fly even at night without the need for fossil fuels. It could herald a new direction for the future of air travel.
Next up for Solar Impulse: cross the Atlantic, then the globe.