For superstitious people, Friday 13th hardly seems the right day to test an aeroplane that runs completely on solar panels, but that didn’t stop the team at Solar Impulse. They had been waiting for the perfect conditions to make the first International flight in a solar power aircraft for weeks and the 13th happened to be that day!
The 1600Kg plane, with a wingspan of 200 feet, left Payerne in Switzerland at 8.40am on a course for Brussels, but this flight was not your usual one, as it was running completely off of the 12,000 solar cells covering the surface of the wings. That is a huge journey of 390 miles, with no fuel!
It is an odd looking plane, which to me, resembles a stick insect more than a new green machine, but the 4 x 10 horsepower propellers were powerful enough to put Solar Impulse in the air, travelling a sluggish 30mph. No wonder the flight took just under 13 hours to get to Brussels!
However, the flight is a milestone in itself, it made the journey completely fuel free. A Boeing 747 would have used approximately 2,000 gallons of fuel to make the same journey. Sure, it is carrying hundreds of people and would take less time, but it is the point that the Solar Impulse did this journey environmentally friendly.
This wasn’t just a simple journey though, as the plane is quite immobile and travels so slow, it had to make sure not to get too close to commercial flights. The team had to successfully navigate to avoid major flight paths because should the Solar Impulse get within 900 metres of another plane it would be hit by its turbulence, which could last up to 5 minutes, causing major issues for the slim-line plane.
Luckily for them, the pilot and co-founder André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard the other founder for the project, had planned this flight to precision and made it a remarkable flight!
The pair do not plan on going commercial though, this flight was to prove a point that renewable energy can be used on flights. I think their point has been well and truly proven, but they still plan on embarking across the world next year!
How long before solar powered aeroplanes is a standard?
Anglian Home Improvements raising the standard since 1966. Visit the Anglian website for information on our photovoltaic solar panels.