Al Marsh

Solar Impulse reaches Madrid on route home to Switzerland

June 27, 2012 by Alton K. Marsh, Senior Editor, AOPA Pilot

UPDATE: Solar Impulse back in Spain, resting in Madrid after a flight from Morocco July 6. Switzerland and home next stop. It will not fly again as work switches to a larger model of Solar Impulse, the one that will, in long hops, go around the world. The main spar of the larger Solar Impulse, HB-SIB, is in testing.

Very cool video warning! This sun-powered 3,500-pound airplane with its 208-foot wingspan has made it from Switzerland to Morocco. There’s an app for smartphones to allow you to see the control room, live views in the cockpit, and even text-chat with the pilot. It’s here.

During the Crossing Frontiers Flights, track live on www.solarimpulse.com as well as via Twitter (for André or Bertrand), Facebook, Masen’s Facebook page dedicated to the event “Solar Convergence Maroc,” and via the smartphone app “Solar Impulse Inventing the Future,” available free at the App store and Google Play. There are live cameras in the cockpit and at the Mission Control Center. (Here’s a link to video of: Solar Impulse taking off June 29 on successful return crossing of Morocco.)

Solar Impulse is an all-electric airplane that recharges its batteries with solar panels by day, drifting downward at night until the sun returns in the nick of time the next morning.  The next model, similar but with improvements, is already under construction and will fly in the spring of 2013. In the spring of 2014 it will circle the world, one segment of the trip at a time, changing its pilot at each stop. The message it carries is renewable energy. It will come to the United States, but the stops have not been determined. I put in my request that it land at Oshkosh, but by late July of 2014 (when EAA AirVenture takes place) it is scheduled to be back in its hangar in Switzerland with the world-circling trip completed. For an $8,000 contribution I, you, anyone could put their name on the side. OK, that’s a little steep. For $1,300 you can visit Zurich (you pay to get there) and get a tour of the airplane with one of the pilots. Hmm, maybe I could save up for that one.

Here are some specifications: Wingspan–208 feet, Length–72 feet, Height–21 feet, Engines–(get this) four 10-horsepower electric motors, Solar Cells–11,268 (including 880 on the tail), Weight–3,527 pounds, Average Flying Speed–38 knots, Takeoff Speed–24 knots, Stalling Speed–19 knots, and Maximum Cruising Altitude–27,900 feet. It’s already reached 30,300 feet–a world record for a solar-powered airplane, and stayed aloft 26 hours and 10 minutes for another solar record. It ain’t done yet.

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