Solar Impulse Makes ‘Flea Hop’
Solar Impulse breaks ground for the first time.
December 4, 2009— Düb Solar Impulse HB-SIA, the first airplane designed to fly day and night without fuel, left the ground for the first time on Thursday, December 3 in Switzerland, in what the Solar Impulse team called a “flea hop.” After several weeks of ground tests to verify braking, engine output, and controllability, the design team gave test pilot Markus Scherdel the go-ahead to take the prototype up to its take-off speed.
The aircraft, with four engines and wings as wide as an airliner’s, lifted off and flew for 1,200 feet at a height of three feet above the runway. The entire Solar Impulse team was elated at the successful flight, according to its president Bertrand Piccard. “For over ten years now, I have dreamt of a solar aircraft capable of flying day and night without fuel and promoting renewable energy,” he said. “Today, our plane took off and was airborne for the very first time. This is an unbelievable and unforgettable moment!”
At this stage the solar panels have not yet been connected. With the positive conclusion of this initial “flea hop,” the Solar Impulse will now be dismantled and transported to the airfield at Payerne, Switzerland. Starting in early 2010, the aircraft will be making its first solar test flights, gradually increasing flight duration until it makes its first night flight using solar energy. The goal for the project is to fly the aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean and eventually around the world.