The HB-SIA, an airplane powered entirely by solar energy that can fly during the day and at night using batteries, landed in New York on July 6, having completed the first cross-country, solar-powered flight. The aircraft was designed and built by Solar Impulse, a Swiss organization dedicated to promoting clean energy technology.
The plane was flown in turns by Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, two Swiss pilots who founded Solar Impulse as a way to promote solar-powered flight and experiment with new technologies. The pair began the journey in San Francisco in May, with stops in Phoenix, Dallas, St. Louis and Washington, D.C., before finally stopping at JFK Airport in New York.
"Flying coast-to-coast has always been a mythical milestone full of challenges for aviation pioneers," said Piccard, who completed the final leg of the journey. "During this journey, we had to find solutions for a lot of unforeseen situations, which obliged us to develop new skills and strategies. In doing so, we also pushed the boundaries of clean technologies and renewable energies to unprecedented levels."
The HB-SIA is powered by 11,000 solar cells, with a wingspan equal to that of a Boeing 747 at 208 feet. However, it has a top speed of 45 miles per hour, so the flight across the United States took over 105 hours to complete. It can fly at night because of an enormous battery pack, which makes up about a third of its 3,527 lb. mass. An around-the-world trip is scheduled to begin in 2015.