Swiss-made solar-powered plane "Solar Impulse," the largest of its kind in the world, will take its first-ever cross-continent flight in May or June, the company announced Tuesday.
The solar-powered plane Solar Impulse. [163.com]
The plane, co-piloted by Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, will attempt for the first time to fly more than 2,500 kilometers, taking off in Payerne in western Switzerland, crossing the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean without using a drop of fuel, and finally landing in Morocco.
The exact date for taking off will be decided according to weather condition.
Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg will take turns to fly the aircraft on its 48-hour journey, with a scheduled intermediate stopover near Madrid to change pilots.
This long-duration flight will serve as a dress rehearsal for the round-the-world flight in 2014, and will allow the team to gather experience in cooperating with international airports, integrating the prototype into regular air traffic patterns, and managing the logistics of maintenance, said Borschberg, co-founder and CEO of Solar Impulse.
"Solar Impulse," the first aircraft that can fly day and night without fuel or polluting emissions, has a wingspan of 63.4 meters, as wide as an Airbus A340, and weighs only 1,600 kg. It has 12,000 solar cells mounted on the wings, which provide momentum for its four electric motors.
The plane took its first international flight from Switzerland to Brussels on May 13, 2011, and marked its second international flight to Paris in June last year.