Solar-Powered Plane Lands Safely on First Day of Five-Month TripThomas Mulier
Solar Impulse, an ultralight plane powered only by the sun’s rays, landed safely in Oman after the first leg of an attempt to fly around the world without using fuel.
Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg, who originated the project, took off from Abu Dhabi at 7:12 a.m. local time and landed in Muscat after taking 13 hours over the 250-mile (400 kilometer) journey, according to the Solar Impulse Twitter feed.
Bertrand Piccard, also Swiss, will take turns flying the one-man vehicle, which has the wingspan of a Boeing Co. 747 jumbo jet but weighs no more than a family car. Flight 2 is due to depart for Ahmedabad, India, at 6 a.m. in Oman tomorrow.
The 21,000-mile global route crosses India, China and the U.S. before returning to Abu Dhabi via southern Europe or north Africa, depending on weather conditions. The aviators will need to fly non-stop for up to six days on oceanic legs, stuffed in a tiny cabin traveling as high as 27,000 feet at 30 to 60 miles per hour. The whole trip will probably take about five months.
On shorter flights the pilot will go without sleep, breathing via an oxygen mask in the unpressurized aircraft. On longer legs, he’ll nap for 20 minutes every three or four hours if the plane is above an unpopulated area.
Borschberg and Piccard say Solar Impulse will demonstrate the potential of renewable power and energy-efficiency measures.
The project’s sponsors include Zurich-based ABB Ltd., the largest maker of devices that convert solar energy into electricity, while Masdar, the renewables unit of Abu Dhabi’s state investment company Mubadala, is also a partner.
Today the Swiss government said it’s making a 20-franc silver coin to commemorate the flight.