Solar-Powered Plane Completes First Cross-Country Flight

Reader Contribution by Soli Salgado
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The Solar Impulse landed in New York City on July 6, 2013, completing the final leg of its cross-country flight and making it the first solar-powered airplane to fly across the United States. 

Powered by 11,000 solar cells on its oversized wings, the plane landed approximately three hours early due to an 8-foot-long tear in its left wing. The crew said the breakage posed no threat to pilots Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, although they had to skip the planned fly-by of the Statue of Liberty.

Piccard told The Washington Post, “Flying coast-to-coast has always been a mythical milestone full of challenges for aviation pioneers. During this journey, we had to find solutions for a lot of unforeseen situations, which obliged us to develop new skills and strategies. In doing so, we also pushed the boundaries of clean technologies and renewable energies to unprecedented levels.”

This revolutionary aircraft – the first to navigate cross-country strictly on solar energy – rose to 30,000 feet and reached a top speed of 45 mph. Weighing approximately the size of a small car, the Solar Impulse flew with power comparable to that of a motorized scooter. According to the Post, “the cross-country flight is a tuneup for a planned 2015 flight around the globe with an upgraded version of the plane.” Europe experienced its first transcontinental solar airplane flight in 2012.

Photo by Solar Impulse