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First Solar Flight World Records Confirmed

October 29, 2010

The July flight of a solar-powered plane built in Switzerland officially set a trio of world records, authorities with the International Aeronautical Federation (FAI) confirmed on Friday.

The Ó°cole Polytechnique F©d©rale de Lausanne’s (EPFL) Solar Impulse prototype aircraft began its record-setting flight on July 7 and was flown by pilot Andr© Borschberg. During the journey, the Solar Impulse set records for absolute altitude (9,235 meters or 30,298 feet), largest height gain (8,744 meters or 28,688 feet), and longest flight duration (26 hours, 10 minutes, 19 seconds) in the “Solar Powered Airplane” class, the FAI announced in a statement.

“The FAI congratulates Andr© Borschberg and the whole team involved in Solar Impulse on these splendid achievements,” officials from the air sports federation added.

According to AFP reports, this marks the first time that records set by an aircraft in the solar-powered category have been officially recognized by the FAI. Spokesperson Marcel Meyer told the news agency that previous records had been claimed, but lacked sufficient evidence to be ratified.

The Solar Impulse project started in 2003 and was championed by Bertrand Piccard, one of the first men to ever complete a non-stop balloon flight around the world. It has a wingspan of approximately 208 feet, weighs roughly 3,500 pounds, and is nearly 72 feet long. It utilizes more than 11,000 solar cells to obtain power during the day, which allows it to charge up its batteries and power the four 10 horsepower electric engines to continue its journey during the evening hours.

“The Solar Impulse is not the first solar airplane imagined by man, but it is certainly the most ambitious. None of its predecessors has ever managed to fly right through the night with a pilot on board,” claims the project’s official website. “By writing the next pages in the history of aviation with solar energy, as far as a flight around the world without fuel or pollution is concerned, Solar Impulse’s ambition is to contribute in the world of exploration and innovation to the cause of renewable energies.”

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