Solar Impulse Achieves Aviation Milestone
Piccard to Appear at AirVenture Oshkosh
July 8, 2010 — When Solar Impulse HB-SIA landed safely at 9 a.m. local time Thursday morning at Payerne Airfield, Switzerland, it was instant news all over the world. No aircraft before had ever achieved a manned 24-hour flight through the night powered entirely by solar energy. One of the Solar Impulse co-founders, Bertrand Piccard, will surely have plenty to say about the flight when he appears at the AirVenture Oshkosh Electric Aircraft Symposium, scheduled for Friday, July 30, in the Founders’ Wing of the EAA AirVenture Museum. The symposium is sponsored by GE Aviation. (Click here to register).
Pilot of the four-engine HB-SIA, co-founder and CEO Andre Borschberg, flew for more than 26 hours following a 6:21 a.m. take-off at Payerne on Wednesday, July 7, thus proving that an aircraft can collect enough solar energy in-flight to remain airborne even in overnight darkness. He enduring freezing temperatures which, among other things, froze his drinking water system. His flight paves the way for further development as Solar Impulse works toward its ultimate goal: flying around the world solely on power derived from the sun. That attempt is scheduled to take place in 2013.
“We achieved more than we wanted,” Borschberg said after landing. “Everybody is extremely happy.” HB-SIA climbed to over 28,000 ft during the flight, collecting energy from the sun via 12,000 solar cells attached to its 63.4 meter (208.1 feet) wings - that’s the same wingspan as a Boeing 777. Top speeds during the flight exceeded 75 mph.
Rogers E. Smith, a former NASA chief pilot and a flight director for the mission, told the Associated Press, “We ended up with perhaps 20 percent more energy than we in the most optimistic way projected.”
Piccard, a world-record balloonist himself, told his partner, “When you took off it was another era. You land in a new era where people understand that with renewable energy you can do impossible things.”
See video of Piccard talking with Borschberg during the flight here.