87 Minute Test Flight of Solar-Powered Airplane Successful
A prototype airplane with 12,000 solar cells in its wings stayed in the air for 87 minutes during its first test flight Wednesday, April 7.
The plane, named Solar Impulse, soared the airspace of Switzerland at a height of 3,900 feet while cruising at 28 miles per hour. German Markus Scherdel was at the controls of the single-seat plane. The entire plane weighs 3,527 pounds (same as a single family-sized car) and the wingspan is as big as that of an Airbus A340.
The plane was first introduced last December when it did a “flea hop”, flying a distance of 350 meters at one meter above a military airbase runway near Zurich.
The target of the team behind the solar airplane is to develop an aircraft that will fly without fuel or emissions at full capacity day AND night. This means that the airplane will be environment friendly too.
The next target is to fly the plane at night. The long term goal is to open it up for commercial passengers sometime from 2012-2013.