September 23, 2010

Solar Impulse Flies Across Switzerland

Switzerland's Solar Impulse aircraft made its first cross-country flight on Wednesday, a new achievement by the solar plane following a historic 24-hour flight back in July.

Air traffic was stopped at Zurich international airport as the plane made touchdown after its journey from a military base in Payerne 170 miles away. During its flight it achieved altitudes of 500 to 1,000 feet and speeds close to 30 miles per hour, a spokeswoman said.

"This is a training for the team, for the airport" and for the air traffic controllers, said Bertrand Piccard, the Swiss adventurer who orchestrated the project. "We wanted to show that we would not pose a major disturbance to the airport's activities," he told the AFP news agency.

The plane remained on the Zurich runway for 45 minutes before taking off again on its return voyage back to the Payerne military base, west of the country.

Solar Impulse is covered with 12,000 solar cells and powered by four small electric motors. During its 24-hour July test flight, the plane used 14 hours of sunshine to power the engines and charge its batteries for the night leg of its journey.

The project is next expected to conduct its first international flight sometime next year, before undertaking a world tour in 2013 or 2014.


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