Biologist and pilot Matevz Lenarcic set out in the ultra fuel-efficient Pipistrel Virus on Sunday for an around-the-world flight intended to showcase the aircraft’s green technology while also facilitating environmental research.
During the flight, which is a collaborative effort between Pipistrel and Penn State, Lenarcic will cover approximately 62,000 miles as he journeys westward around the planet, traveling to all seven continents and flying over a number of iconic milestones, such as Mount Everest, along the way.
To prepare the Virus for the flight, the airplane’s existing Rotax 912 ULS engine was replaced with a turbo-charged Rotax 914, a move that will reduce fuel consumption and also allow the aircraft to reach altitudes up to 30,000 feet. To further streamline the aircraft, the Virus’s tricycle landing gear was converted to a tail-dragger configuration.
During the flight, Lenarcic will use the modified Virus and its wide speed range – which reaches as high as 160 knots and as low as 43 knots – to collect data on black carbon concentrations and its sources in various regions throughout the world. The flight was launched from Ljubljana on Sunday and will take approximately two months to complete.
Check out our photo gallery of the flight here.