Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
The Solar Impulse team of Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg completed the next-to-last leg of the Across America 2013 project with a safe landing in Washington DC. The zero-fuel aircraft touched down in the US capital at 12:15 am EDT on June 16 after a nearly two day flight with a single pit stop in Cincinnati.
Borschberg piloted the HB-SIA single-seat plane for the first half of the flight. He took off from Lambert-St. Louis International Airport in the predawn hours on June 14 and landed at about 8:15 pm EDT in Cincinnati for a short pit stop before handing over the reins to Piccard for the second half of the flight.
Normally the pilots make landings later at night to avoid heavy air traffic, but since Cincinnati´s Lunken Municipal Airport doesn´t get as much heavy traffic as larger airports, Borschberg decided to glide in earlier than usual.
The Cincinnati pit stop was initially scheduled for 11 hours but lasted closer to 14 hours instead. At 10:11 am on June 15, Piccard climbed into the solar-powered aircraft and took off for Washington DC.
The Solar Impulse team ultimately decided to split the fourth leg of the Across America 2013 flight into two segments because of strong headwinds that were forecast for the region. They knew such strong winds would make it difficult to complete the St. Louis-Washington DC leg in less than 24 hours, which is the maximum time allotted for pilots to fly in the single-seater.
After an additional 14 hours in the air for the fourth leg, Piccard landed safely in the District of Columbia at 12:15 am EDT on June 16, 2013.
“To land in the Capital of the United States has a dual significance for me: On the one hand, it proves the reliability and potential of clean technologies and this is crucial in pushing our message forward,” explained Piccard after landing in DC. “On the other hand, to be hosted by the Smithsonian Institution is an honor for Solar Impulse. The capsule of my around-the-world balloon flight is already displayed in the Air and Space Museum and I hope one day a second Swiss aircraft will join the collection“¦” he said, likely in reference to the Solar Impulse HB-SIA prototype.
Borschberg added, “with the successful completion of these last four US flights, we have shown that we are capable of coping with challenging meteorological conditions for our weather-sensitive plane and for our ground operations, and that we could find each time the right solutions to move forward. It has been a succession of fruitful learnings preparing us for the 2015 world tour.”
The team is scheduled to meet with Secretary of Energy´s Ernest Moniz during a press conference on Monday. But first, the Solar Impulse will go on public display Sunday afternoon from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. outside the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM). Several other events will also be held throughout the week of June 17-23.
The last leg of the Across America 2013 project will see Borschberg climb aboard the HB-SIA solar-powered aircraft for a final time. He will pilot the aircraft from Washington DC to the final American destination, New York City in early July. The last flight’s departure, which is scheduled for a JFK International Airport landing, will depend on weather conditions.