Solar Impulse completes California to Arizona leg

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Solar Impulse, the zero-fuel aeroplane, has flown the first leg across the continental United States in its attempt to fly around the world.

The plane left Mountain View, California, at dawn on Monday and landed 16 hours later in Goodyear, a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona.

Swiss adventurer Andre Borschberg was at the controls, having taken over from Bertrand Piccard.

Borschberg landed the propeller-driven aircraft at Phoenix Goodyear Airport at 8:55pm local time (03.55 am GMT) on Monday after a 15 hour, 52 minute flight from San Francisco.

‘I made it to #Phoenix, what an amazing flight over the Mojave Desert to promote #futureis clean,’ Borschberg said on Twitter.

Piccard and Borschberg have been taking turns flying the plane on an around-the-world trip since taking off from Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, in March 2015.

It was the 10th leg of its round the world quest – part of the attempt to achieve the first ever Round-The-World Solar Flight.

The goal of which is to demonstrate how modern clean technologies can achieve the impossible.

As soon as possible, weather permitting, Bertrand Piccard will pilot Si2 to the next stop-over and continue the crossing of the United States.

Bertrand Piccard & André Borschberg in Abu Dhabi
Bertrand Piccard & André Borschberg in Abu Dhabi

The plane’s maximum altitude is 27,900ft (8,500m) but this drops to 3,280ft (1,000m), when the pilot is able to take short 20-minute catnaps.

The goal of the project is to show the possibilities of renewable energy such as solar power.

Mr Piccard and Mr Borschberg have been working on the Solar Impulse project for more than a decade.

A plane that is wider than a 747 jumbo jet but weighs just 2.3 tonnes poses some unique challenges:

  • Low speed means legs can take several days and nights of continuous flight
  • Great size but small mass makes handling very sensitive to wind conditions
  • Concentration: The pilot is permitted only catnaps of up to 20 minutes or so
  • Discomfort: The cockpit is very cramped – little bigger than a public phone box

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Photo Credit: Solar Impulse

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