Solar Impulse Pilot Considers Bailing Out After Wing-Skin Rips

Cross-country flight completed despite damage.

Solar Impulse wing

Solar Impulse wing

The Swiss Solar Impulse team has successfully completed its Across America mission, landing late Saturday night at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. André Borschberg, co-founder and CEO of Solar Impulse, completed the final 18-hour, 23-minute flight from Washington Dulles International Airport.

But it appears that the long cross-country trip tested the unconventional airplane to its limits. A large rip in the fabric under the left wing caused Borschberg to land at 11:09 p.m. local time on Saturday, about three hours earlier than planned. “[The damage] obliged the team to envisage all the possible scenarios, including bailing out over the Atlantic,” Borschberg said. Despite the major wing damage, Borschberg was able to safely get the airplane on the ground. The accompanying photo clearly shows the large tear under the wing.

Entirely driven by solar power, the Solar Impulse HB-SIA took 105 hours and 41 minutes to fly the 3,511-mile trip across the United States, a journey that began on May 3 in San Francisco and included stops in Phoenix, Dallas, St. Louis and Cincinnati.

Several public appearances and open houses, with the Solar Impulse HB-SIA on display, are planned in the New York area before the team plans to return to Switzerland on July 16.

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