November 19, 2009

Solar Plane Begins Testing For First Flight

An experimental plane is set to sail across the world on solar power.

This week, the Solar Impulse plane left its hangar for the first time while engineers conducted tests on the craft.

The plane is set to fly for the first time in February, with additional plans for a trip across the Atlantic in 2012, piloted by Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard.

"It's very exciting, we are moving now toward a very concrete phase," Solar Impulse chief executive Andre Borschberg told BBC News.

"You have to realize this airplane is quite special and you cannot just put it on the runway, apply full power and go in the air - it has to be done really step-by-step."

On November 11, the team began checks to make sure there was no electromagnetic interference that would impact the plane's computer and avionic systems

"Results are very reassuring," Andre Borschberg wrote on the Solar Impulse blog.

Once the team finishes testing the plane, it plans to launch for a short trip in two weeks.

"We'll take off at the beginning of the runway, fly a few meters above it - a little bit like the Wright brothers did in 1903 - and then land again, to see how it behaves at the beginning of the flight."

"If this is satisfactory, we will dismantle it and transport it to [Payerne air force base in western Switzerland] where will we do the real first flight of about two hours, in February."

"This is truly a new design - an airplane the size of an Airbus and the weight of a mid-sized car - so we're not taking risks by not understanding something."


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