Solar Impulse brings its sunny wings to the US

Solar Impulse's HB-SIA is loaded onto a 747 for transportSolar Impulse, the manned, solar-powered plane has made its first journey across the Atlantic from Europe—in a plane. The plane landed in San Francisco Feb. 21, ferried the disassembled Solar Impulse (HB-SIA) across the Atlantic in a Boeing 747 (which actually has a smaller wing span than the photovoltaic-powered plane) ahead of its planned flight across the U.S. this year.

It’s just the next test for the solar-powered project which aims to fly a photovoltaic-powered airplane around the world in about 20 days straight in 2015—it’ll only be flying at about 30 miles an hour. Thus far the plane has flown from its home in Switzerland to Brussels, Belgium. And to ready for the long periods of flight, at least one of the pilots has practiced in a test canopy for 72 hours straight, after all crossing the Pacific Ocean will require 5 days of flight with no landing strips.

Originally there was no plan to fly across the U.S. before attempting the world trip. But the test plane’s sibling, HB-SIB, the plane the team plans to circumnavigate the globe in, needed repairs. “It was only after the wing spar of the second airplane (HB-SIB)—to be used for the around-the-world mission flights—broke, that its construction had to be delayed, and the global mission was postponed from 2014 to 2015. What initially looked like an issue, later turned out to be a unique opportunity: 2013 would be used to fly across America with HB-SIA! This is a great way to introduce SI and showcase its technology in the U.S.,” according to the Solar Impulse team.

The plane landed in the U.S. on Feb. 21 at San Francisco’s Moffett Airfield and is already being reassembled. To fly the plane across the Atlantic the team had to take apart the wings and various other components, there’s a time-lapse video of it (here).

During the month of March the team will reassemble the plane and take test flights in April around San Francisco. If all goes well, the team will start out on its May the team will “Solar Impulse Across America” project, stopping in major U.S. cities before reaching its destination in New York.  

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