Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bad weather eclipses solar-powered plane

It takes more than puddles on the runway to stop most planes from taking off, but then Solar Impulse isn't like most planes.
The rest of the aerospace industry has gathered at the Paris Air Show to watch fighter jets, stunt planes and commercial aircraft roar and thunder into the threateningly gray skies overhead.
But in a tent at the end of the airfield, the team behind the Solar Impulse is quietly waiting for the clouds to clear and give them a chance to show what their revolutionary plane can do.
The plane was the brainchild of two aviators -- Bertrand Piccard, who made history with the world's first round-the-world hot air balloon flight in 1999, and Andre Borschberg.
It has the wingspan of an A340, the weight of a sports car, and the power of a scooter -- but as pilot Borschberg is quick to point out, it's not how much power it has, but where the power comes from that counts.
"It flies at a speed of about 70 kmh, but speed is not what matters, it is the energy," he insists.
That energy comes from the sun. Solar Impulse is a zero-fuel aircraft: all its power is supplied by more than 11,000 solar cells which coat its massive wings.
In the first major test of the plane, in July 2010, they provided enough power to allow the plane to fly non-stop, day and night, for 26 hours.
The next challenge, set for 2014, is to see if it can be flown non-stop around the world.

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