Swiss introduce solar-powered plane

9th November 2009, Comments 0 comments

Solar Impulse introduced its prototype and started the engines on Friday at an airbase near Zurich.

Geneva -- Solar Impulse, the first company to attempt a solar-powered flight around the world, introduced its prototype on Friday and started the engines at an airbase near Zurich.

All four sun-fuelled electric motors were switched on for the first time outside after the completed plane was pushed out of the hangar.

"With its engines running at full power, it gave the impression of wanting to get off the ground straightaway... but it won’t be long now before we release the brakes and let it roll its first few metres," said Andre Borschberg, co-founder and chief executive of Solar Impulse.

The ultralight single seater with the wingspan of an Airbus A380 airliner is being prepared for its first flight over the coming weeks when weather conditions allow.

Solar Impulse staff said the aircraft, which weighs as much as a medium-sized car (1,600 kilogrammes, 3,527 pounds), needs clear conditions and less than a light breeze (three knots) for its first flight.

It is due to make a few airborne trips down the runway at the Dubendorf airbase before 20 December.

"Compared to its weight and size, it is lighter than the best performing gliders," Borschberg said.

The prototype, which is slightly smaller than the craft expected to fly around the world, was first revealed while being built in its hangar in June.

It is primarily aimed at testing the cutting-edge technology used to build and control the aircraft, and to fly through the night.

A first nonstop 36-hour flight through darkness is planned in Switzerland from spring 2010, with the prospect of a five-stage flight around the world in 2012.

AFP / Expatica

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