Solar Impulse Builds Round-the-World Airplane

Swiss team gets ready for historic zero-fuel flight.

Solar Impulse 2

Solar Impulse 2

** Solar Impulse 2**

The Solar Impulse team, makers of the airplane set to fly around the world next year on nothing but solar power, has completed the construction phase of the Solar Impulse 2 — the airplane that is set to attempt the flight. The single-seat airplane is powered by four electric motors, has a wingspan of 236 feet (nearly as long as an Airbus A380) and weighs 5,000 pounds. It is designed to fly as long as five consecutive days and nights without stopping — a feat it needs to be able to achieve in order to complete the planned round-the-world journey.

But it is not only the airplane that will be challenged to its limit during the historic flight attempt. In order to provide maximum efficiency, the Solar Impulse is neither pressurized nor heated, so the pilot will also be tested to the max. Several long simulated and actual flights have already been completed in the first test platform, the Solar Impulse HB-SIA, including a flight across the United States that presented several challenges including severe weather and a rip in the wing skin that nearly caused the pilot, André Borschberg, to bail out during the final leg between Washington, D.C., and New York.

The Solar Impulse team is likely to encounter additional challenges on its ambitious quest. Flight testing of the Solar Impulse 2 is scheduled to start in May in Switzerland and the team hopes to embark on the journey it has worked 12 years to achieve in March 2015.

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