June 4, 2014 – Solar Flight, maker of the Sunseeker Duo solar-powered aircraft, reports that it achieved the world’s first solar-powered flight with two people aboard on May 30. Husband and wife founders Eric and Irena Raymond took off in the aircraft from Solar Flight’s test facility near Milan, Italy.
“Flying the Duo, skimming the white, fluffy clouds from above and playing on the sky, I feel like a bird. No limitations, a pure freedom,” Irena said. “It’s so quiet! Compared to a normal airplane, it’s like night and day. You need very good headset in other powered airplanes, but in the Duo you can speak normally even when the motor is running full power, no headset needed. It is unbelievable.”
The approximately 90-minute reached a maximum altitude around 8,000 feet. Subsequent flights have been for three hours to an altitude of 12,000 feet.
Next up for the Sunseeker Duo: This month the couple plans to take the airplane on its first cross-country flight, a 100-mile trip to Pavullo nel Frignano, Italy. The airplane is designed to be able to carry enough baggage for long “autonomous adventures” and includes fully reclining seats so that one of the pilots can sleep during extremely long flights.
The Sunseeker Duo is Solar Flight’s third solar-powered airplane preceded by the Sunseeker I, which in 1990 made a solar-powered flight across America, and the Edelweiss, a more durable, faster version with better maneuverability.
The Duo’s tail-mounted electric motor has a maximum output of 25 kilowatts (34 hp) and is powered by a battery pack stored in the fuselage that’s charged by 1,510 solar cells lining the wing and tail surfaces. It has a 72-foot wingspan, empty weight of 617 pounds, and Solar Flight claims the airplane can cruise directly on solar power with two people on board for durations in excess of 12 hours.