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Rediff.com  » Business » Solar plane: From San Francisco to Phoenix in 18 hours!

Solar plane: From San Francisco to Phoenix in 18 hours!

Last updated on: May 8, 2013 16:45 IST


Photographs: Reuters David Bailey, Laila Kearney and Braden Reddall

The solar-powered airplane from San Francisco to Phoenix took 18 hours and 18 minutes on Saturday - and didn't use a drop of fuel.

A solar-powered airplane that developers hope eventually to pilot around the world landed safely in Phoenix on the first leg of an attempt to fly across the United States using only the sun's energy, project organisers said.

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Solar plane: From San Francisco to Phoenix in 18 hours!

Image: he Solar Impulse aircraft takes off from Moffett Field to begin the first leg of its 2013 Across America Mission in Mountain View, California.
Photographs: Stephen Lam/Reuters.

The plane, dubbed the Solar Impulse, took 18 hours and 18 minutes to reach Phoenix on the slow-speed flight, completing the first of five legs with planned stops in Dallas, St. Louis and Washington on the way to a final stop in New York.

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Solar plane: From San Francisco to Phoenix in 18 hours!

Image: Solar Impulse aircraft takes off from Moffett Field to begin the first leg of its 2013 Across America Mission in Mountain View, California.
Photographs: Stephen Lam/Reuters.

The spindly-looking plane barely hummed as it took off Friday morning from Moffett Field, a joint civil-military airport near San Francisco.

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Solar plane: From San Francisco to Phoenix in 18 hours!

Image: Solar Impulse aircraft takes off from Moffett Field to begin the first leg of its 2013 Across America Mission in Mountain View, California.
Photographs: Stephen Lam/Reuters.

It landed in predawn darkness at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, according to a statement on the Solar Impulse's website.

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Solar plane: From San Francisco to Phoenix in 18 hours!

Image: Solar Impulse aircraft takes off from Moffett Field to begin the first leg of its 2013 Across America Mission in Mountain View, California.
Photographs: Stephen Lam/Reuters.

The flight crew plans pauses at each stop to wait for favorable weather. It hopes to reach John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York in about two months.

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Solar plane: From San Francisco to Phoenix in 18 hours!

Image: Pilot Bertrand Piccard (C) prepares for take off aboard the Solar Impulse aircraft on the runway at Moffett Field, to begin the first leg of its 2013 Across America Mission.
Photographs: Stephen Lam/Reuters.

Swiss pilots and co-founders of the project, Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, will take turns flying the plane, built with a single-seat cockpit. Piccard was at the controls for the first flight to Arizona.

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Solar plane: From San Francisco to Phoenix in 18 hours!

Image: Solar Impulse pilot Andre Borschberg speaks to members of the media before fellow pilot Bertrand Piccard takes off from Moffett Field to begin the first leg of their 2013 Across America Mission in Mountain View, California.
Photographs: Stephen Lam/Reuters.

The lightweight carbon fiber Solar Impulse has a wingspan of a jumbo jet and the weight of a small car and from a distance resembles a giant floating insect.

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Solar plane: From San Francisco to Phoenix in 18 hours!

Image: Solar Impulse pilots Andre Borschberg (L) and Bertrand Piccard speaks to members of the media before Bertrand takes off from Moffett Field to begin the first leg of their 2013 Across America Mission in Mountain View, California.
Photographs: Stephen Lam/Reuters.

The plane was designed for flights of up to 24 hours at a time and is a test model for a more advanced aircraft the team plans to build to circumnavigate the globe in 2015.

It made its first intercontinental flight, from Spain to Morocco, last June.

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Solar plane: From San Francisco to Phoenix in 18 hours!

Image: Solar Impulse pilot Bertrand Piccard puts on his flight helmet before taking off from Moffett Field to begin the first leg of his 2013 Across America Mission in Mountain View, California.
Photographs: Stephen Lam/Reuters.

The aircraft is propelled by energy collected from 12,000 solar cells built into the wings that simultaneously recharge four large batteries with a storage capacity equivalent to a Tesla electric car that allow it to fly after dark.

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Solar plane: From San Francisco to Phoenix in 18 hours!

Image: Solar Impulse pilot Bertrand Piccard gestures from the cockpit before taking off from Moffett Field to begin the first leg of his 2013 Across America Mission in Mountain View, California.
Photographs: Stephen Lam/Reuters.

The lightweight design and wingspan allow the plane to conserve energy, but make it vulnerable. It cannot fly in strong wind, fog, rain or clouds.

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Solar plane: From San Francisco to Phoenix in 18 hours!

Image: A Solar Impulse crew member walks in front of a sun-powered aircraft at Moffett Field before the first leg of its 2013 Across America Mission, piloted by Bertrand Piccard, in Mountain View, California.
Photographs: Stephen Lam/Reuters.

The plane can climb to 28,000 feet and flies at an average of 43 miles per hour (69 km per hour).

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Solar plane: From San Francisco to Phoenix in 18 hours!

Image: Solar Impulse crew members stand next to their sun-powered aircraft on the runway at Moffett Field before the first leg of its 2013 Across America Mission, piloted by Bertrand Piccard, in Mountain View, California.
Photographs: Stephen Lam/Reuters.

The project began in 2003 with a 10-year budget of 90 million euros ($112 million) and has involved engineers from Swiss escalator maker Schindler and research aid from Belgian chemicals group Solvay.

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Solar plane: From San Francisco to Phoenix in 18 hours!


Photographs: Stephen Lam/Reuters.

A Solar Impulse crew member stands beneath an engine on the runway at Moffett Field before the first leg of the aircraft's 2013 Across America Mission, piloted by Bertrand Piccard, in Mountain View, California.

Source: REUTERS
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