Solar Impulse Preps for Flight across America

** Photo by Solar Impulse | Jean Revillard**

The Solar Impulse has arrived from Switzerland at Moffett Field, California — though not under its own solar power. The revolutionary airplane arrived in a crate, and the Solar Impulse team is now working to reassemble it for a planned four-stop flight across the United States this summer.

The Solar Impulse has a 205-foot wingspan, and the upper surfaces of the wing contain 12,000 photovoltaic cells for converting sunlight to electric power. They will feed four 10 hp electric motors to drive the 3,527-pound aircraft at speeds of around 40 knots. The planned transcontinental flight is expected to reach cruising altitudes of close to 30,000 feet to avoid weather. The airplane has already flown more than 26 hours.

The Solar Impulse team has plans to begin building a new, larger aircraft that they expect to fly around the world in two years’ time.

Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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