The Solar Impulse aircraft has landed at New York’s JFK airport, having complete its impressive journey over the US. This is the first time a solar-powered airplane capable of flying in both day and night has attempted to fly over the US.
The landing completes the ultimate leg of the Solar Impulse’s over America transcontinental bid, which began in May.
Earlier in its path, the Solar Impulse plane broke the distance record for solar-powered flight by staying within the air for the full 18 hours.
Last year, the Solar Impulse airplane became the very first solar-powered craft to complete an inter-continental trip.
The record-breaking plane was planned and manufactured by project co-founders (and Impulse co-pilots) Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg. The band hope to praise the virtues of renewable energy with their creation.
Piccard and Borshberg are also behind the ‘Clean Generation’ initiative, that is an effort to support businesses and governments to improve and adopt sustainable energy resources.
The solar impulse HB-SIA has a similar wingspan as an A340 Airbus, but weighs only 1.6 tonnes (by contrast an A340 weighs, on standard, about 370 tonnes). The Impulse’s wing and stabiliser are roofed with some 12,000 solar cells, these run 4 propellers and completely charge the lithium-ion for dark flying. The craft has a top speed of 70 kph (45mph) plus a maximum cruising altitude of 8,500m (28,000ft).
Piccard and Borshberg claim that their next step is to try a journey round the planet, which they plan will begin in 2015. However, in order to achieve this, the twosome will have to develop a bigger plane, the HB SIB.
United states Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz, was present to welcome the craft, saying,
“If you examine the Department of Energy’s research programmes and technology visions, it includes many of this same kind of technology advancements that these gentlemen have put together in an built-in system to accomplish something that wouldn’t have been thought of a couple of years ago (…) I believe in 10 years we are going to see the fruits of every one of these technologies altering the world.”
Although a rip within the wing, which caused the pair to scrap their planned Statue of Liberty fly by, the Solar Impulse plane succeeded in its aims. The craft has shattered records, encouraged bigger thinking into renewable power and proved to become a successful invention. Solar powered passenger jets may yet become a great distance off, however the Solar Impulse plane proves that the technology is getting there.