Solar Impulse is an innovative project leveraging technological prowess and the spirit of adventure by means of an airplane. Launched in 2003, it completed the world’s first solar 26-hour day and night flight in 2010. In 2011 Solar Impulse flew to Brussels (Belgium) and Paris (France) and in 2012, the HB-SIA prototype completed the first intercontinental flight connecting Europe to Africa.
This year Solar Impulse will be attempting the celebrated coast-to-coast flight of the United States, West to East, thanks to the support of its partners Solvay, Schindler, Bayer MaterialScience, Swiss Re Corporate Solutions, SunPower, and the Swiss Confederation. Originally unplanned, the perfect opportunity for this new adventure emerged after the decision to rebuild Solar Impulse’s second generation aircraft’s wing spar.
First leg Across America – Moffett Field to Phoenix
The first leg of the 2013 Across America mission was concluded successfully. Bertrand Piccard did a wonderful job throughout the flight, bringing HB-SIA safely from San Francisco to Phoenix, and landing at 00:30 am MST (UTC-7) on Runway 08, Saturday May 4th.
Bertrand had a chance to give numerous interviews to media all around the world before climbing to an altitude above 12,000 ft. where he was then obliged to wear an oxygen mask. Interestingly enough, more people were connected from Japan than the US, for a short while, prior to touchdown.
Ever thought of flying electric cars? Sure seems we’re not far from that. During the flight Bertrand heard an aircraft asking the Air Traffic Controller (ATC) about Solar Impulse and why he had to remain at a distance. The ATC replied, “Just think of a flying electric car!” cracking Bertrand into a hearty laugh. HB-SIA was extremely well welcomed by all ATC along the way and the exchanges between Bertrand and his ATC interlocutors were very enjoyable. I can imagine how important these exchanges are especially during 20-hour long flights!
The project’s ultimate goal is to fly around the world, scheduled for 2015 and with the second generation aircraft currently under construction, HB-SIB.