Al Marsh

Next Solar Impulse plane fails spar test

July 12, 2012 by Alton K. Marsh, Senior Editor, AOPA Pilot

There are two Solar Impulse electric/solar airplanes. While HB-SIA (Swiss registration number) rests safely in Madrid for the right weather to return to Switzerland, HB-SIB that will go around the world is under construction. The main spar had been completed but snapped during a torsion test a few days ago, as was reported on the Solar Impulse site.  It’s a real setback for the 2014 world flight on zero fuel, hopping around the world on solar-recharged batteries.  Tears and sadness reigned in Dübendorf near Zurich just as engineers were preparing to celebrate the test’s success.

The only thing to do is to redesign and rebuild the spar, and whether it still flies in early 2013 is in doubt. It will be a bittersweet homecoming for the HB-SIA when it reaches Switzerland after a successful visit to Morocco, even though it was only designed for night tests.

It climbs to more than 20,000 feet by day, and descends slowly on battery power by night. Here’s wishing better luck to Bertrand Piccard and his quest to demonstrate alternative energy. I’m sending an e-mail to Piccard and Solar Impulse co-founder and CEO André Borschberg, [email protected], letting them know about this post.

It’s not easy, inventing the future.

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