A solar-powered plane nearing the close of a cross-continental journey landed at Dulles International Airport outside the nation’s capital early Sunday, only one short leg to New York remaining on a voyage that opened in May.
Solar Impulse’s website said the aircraft with its massive wings and thousands of photovoltaic cells “gracefully touched down” at 12:15 a.m. EDT after 14 hours and four minutes of flight from Cincinnati, Ohio, to Dulles in Washington’s Virginia suburbs.
Pilot Bertrand Piccard was at the controls for the last time on the multi-leg “Across America” journey that began May 3 in San Francisco. His fellow Swiss pilot, Andre Borschberg, is expected to fly the last leg from Washington to New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport in early July, the web site added.
It’s the first bid by a solar plane capable of being airborne day and night without fuel to fly across the U.S, at speeds reaching about 40 mph. The plane opened by flying from San Francisco via Arizona, Texas, Missouri and Ohio onward to Dulles with stops of several days in cities along the way.
Organizers said in a blog post early Sunday that Piccard soared across the Appalachian mountains on a 435-mile (700-kilometer) course from Cincinnati to the Washington area, averaging 31 mph (50 kph). It was the second phase of a leg that began in St. Louis.
The plane, considered the world’s most advanced sun-powered aircraft, is powered by about 12,000 photovoltaic cells that cover its enormous wings and charge its batteries during the day. The single-seat Solar Impulse flies around 40 mph and can’t go through clouds; weighing about as much as a car, the aircraft also took longer than a car to complete the journey from Ohio to the East Coast.
Despite its vulnerabilities to bad weather, Piccard said in a statement that the conclusion of all but the final leg showed that sun-powered cross-continent travel “proves the reliability and potential of clean technologies.”
Read more at: Phys.org