Solar Impulse Makes History As First To Fly Across America Powered Only By The Sun
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Swiss Pioneers of aviation Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg have made history with their successful Across America 2013 project, landing safely at JFK International Airport in New York late Saturday night, July 6.
Sunday’s successful landing of the Solar Impulse zero-fuel airplane marks a significant milestone in aviation history: The first time a plane capable of flying day and night powered only by solar energy has crossed the USA from California to New York without using a single drop of fuel.
Borschberg, co-founder and CEO of Solar Impulse, landed the HB-SIA prototype at JFK on Saturday, July 6 at 11:09 p.m. EDT, three hours earlier than scheduled. Scheduled for a 2:00 a.m. landing, Borschberg decided to come in early after noticing a tear in the fabric on the lower side of the left wing.
The flight took a total of 18 hours and 23 minutes. Borschberg departed from Washington-Dulles International Airport at 4:46 a.m. EDT on Saturday morning.
“This last leg was especially difficult due to the damage of the fabric on the left wing. It obliged the team to envisage all the possible scenarios, including bailing out over the Atlantic. But this type of problem is inherent to every experimental endeavor. In the end, this didn’t prevent us from succeeding in our Across America mission and provided an invaluable learning experience in preparation for the round-the-world tour in 2015,” said Borschberg shortly after landing safely in NYC. “We extend our gratitude to all airport and government authorities whose precious support made this mission possible.”
Saturday’s landing in NYC marks the culmination of an ambitious project that began in San Francisco on May 3. The total journey of 3511 miles took Piccard and Borschberg 105 hours and 41 minutes, traveling at an average air speed of 28.8 knots.
The total flight was broken up into 5 stages with Piccard and Borschberg alternately taking turns piloting the airplane.
Piccard was the first to fly, beginning with the take-off from Moffett Field near San Francisco, California on May 3 and flying non-stop to Phoenix, Arizona.
On May 22, Borschberg took the helm for the second leg of the Across America 2013 project, flying from Phoenix to Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas. This flight set a world record for longest in-air flight for the Solar Impulse airplane. Borschberg, who set the record for longest flight in a zero-fuel airplane in 2012 when he flew 602 miles from Switzerland to Spain, smashed the record on the Phoenix-Dallas-Fort Worth flight, which totaled 832 miles.
Piccard stepped back into the airplane on June 3 for leg three, flying from Dallas-Fort Worth to St. Louis, Missouri. This was viewed as the most dangerous part of the whole Across America mission, with severe weather affecting the region for several days prior to and during the flight schedule.
Due to storm damage of a hangar at St. Louis International Airport that was to be used to house the HB-SIA prototype during its layover, the team had to make use of a revolutionary inflatable hangar, designed and developed by Solar Impulse.
For the fourth leg, the Solar Impulse team decided the flight needed to be broken into two stages due to strong headwinds and crosswinds that would make it difficult to complete the leg in less than 24 hours.
On June 14, Borschberg took the helm for the first stage, flying from St. Louis to Cincinnati. After a short layover, Piccard stepped into the aircraft on June 15 to complete the leg from Cincinnati to Washington DC.
On the last leg of the journey, Borschberg took the final turn at the controls, flying from Washington Dulles International Airport to JFK International Airport in New York on July 6.
“Flying coast-to-coast has always been a mythical milestone full of challenges for aviation pioneers. During this journey, we had to find solutions for a lot of unforeseen situations, which obliged us to develop new skills and strategies. In doing so, we also pushed the boundaries of clean technologies and renewable energies to unprecedented levels,” said Piccard.
Now that the Solar Impulse team has completed their Across America 2013 trek, several events are planned in the Big Apple.
A news conference is scheduled for July 8 at noon at JFK, with Piccard, Borschberg, members of the Solar Impulse team, Solar Impulse partners and key individuals in NYC.
Piccard and Borschberg will also join in on the NASDAQ Opening Bell Ceremony on Tuesday, July 9 at 9:30 a.m.
A UN presentation is also scheduled for Tuesday at 4:00 p.m., with Piccard and Borschberg speaking at the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Chamber along with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and dor of Switzerland to the UN Paul Seger.
The Solar Impulse team will also have an open house for public visits of the aircraft and the team on Saturday, July 13 from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. and the again on Sunday, July 14 from 11:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Also, several other events are scheduled throughout the week of July 8-15 at JFK.
On July 16, Piccard and Borschberg will return home to Switzerland. However, they maintained that discussions about future missions will continue, as well as plans for their 2015 World Tour.
The Solar Impulse Across America 2013 mission was made possible by a partnership with Solvay, Schindler, Bayer Material Science, Swiss RE Corporate Solutions, Sunpower and the Swiss Confederation.