The Swiss manufactured solar powered plane, with a wingspan as wide as that of a jumbo jet, has just finished the first leg of its historic flight around the world. With its starting point at Abu Dhabi, the lightweight plane landed safely in Oman’s capital city of Muscat, after flying for over 13 hours and crossing around 300 miles over wide deserts and mountain ranges.
The plane, called the Solar Impulse 2, is set to fly again and leave the city Tuesday morning with its next leg set to cover the Arabian Sea, as it heads to the city of Ahmedabad in India.
Solar powered plane set to begin 2nd leg of journey
The Solar Impulse 2 has wings that span the length similar to that of the majestic 747. They are unique because of their “embellishments” in the form of numerous PV cells, all 17,000 of them. These cells collect solar energy in large quantities. The energy is then sent to the four electric motors, which in turn, power the propellers of the plane.
The founder of the Solar Impulse, André Borschberg, said that he was calm and assured as he pilot solar powered plane. He is now part of this plane’s history, to be forever known as the pilot who flew it on the first leg of a long 21,700-mile flight journey.
Another assigned pilot to fly the plane is Bertrand Piccard, co-founder of the Impulse. Both pilot will trade off flights during layovers all throughout. “After 16 years of a dream and 12 years of hard work, we hope it will work,” gushed Piccard as he was interviewed by BBC soon after the solar plane took off.
Solar Impulse round-the-world adventure now a part of avaiation history
There are a number of legs of the flight, which is estimated to end approximately after 5 months. In the last legs, the plane will be flown by a solo pilot and will involve flying over the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The Solar Impulse final leg will be its return to Abu Dhabi, which will happen in July or August.
The solar powered plane will stop for longer periods of time at specific destinations around the world, in order to give both pilots ample time to rest and perform the necessary check-up and maintenance on the plane. During long stops, they are expected to hold press conferences and talk about renewable green technologies.
Piccard, who is only too happy to pilot solar powered plane, described the cockpit as tiny and with a space similar to that inside a typical phone booth. It is so small that it is only capable of carrying a single person.
Borschberg and Piccard championing the success of renewable energy
The pilot can’t assume a standing position while in flight. However, the single seat can be reclined if the pilot wants to stretch. Also, cushion of the seat can be removed to access a built-in toilet.
Both pilots reaffirm that they are comfortable flying the plane solo, and staying inside a cramped cockpit. Piccard explained to BBC that even the great pilot and flight pioneer Charles Lindbergh experienced flying in a tiny cockpit, perhaps many times in his career.
After India, next stop will be China, where the solar powered plane will stay for 4 weeks to replenish its solar power. Other important stops will be Burma, Arizona, and New York.
Photo courtesy of Charles Barilleaux on Flickr