A solar-powered plane that can fly at night is gearing up to be the first airplane of its kind to fly across the United States.
The Solar Impulse has spent the past few weeks around San Francisco, California, taking practice runs before its cross-country tour.
“That’s a mythical step in aviation,” Andre Borschberg, one of the plane’s pilots and creators, said about flying cross-country. He compared the Solar Impulse team to early-20th-century aviators who tried to fly coast to coast in propeller planes.
He said a solar-powered trip around the world could happen in two years.
The Solar Impulse is powered by about 12,000 photovoltaic cells. They cover the plane’s massive wings and charge its batteries, allowing it to fly day and night without fuel. It has the wingspan of a large passenger airplane but the weight of the average family car, a combination that makes it vulnerable to bad weather.
Its creators say the Solar Impulse is designed to showcase the potential of solar power and will never replace fuel-powered commercial flights. The delicate, single-seat plane cruises at around 40 miles per hour —a lot slower than ordinary planes — and it can’t fly through clouds.
Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, Solar Impulse’s co-founder and chairman, had predicted that the plane would be ready for the cross-country journey this week, depending on the weather. “We like nice weather,” Borschberg said. “We like sunny days,”
Friday is now the first possible day for takeoff, a Solar Impulse spokeswoman said Monday.more