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Fri, May 25, 2012

Solar Impulse Launches Transcontinental Flight

Airplane Powered Only By Solar Energy Will Eventually Attempt To Circle The Globe

The Solar Impulse aircraft developed by Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg departed Payerne, Switzerland Thursday morning with final destination Rabat, the capital of Morocco. The takeoff was reportedly delayed by a couple of hours by fog at Payerne airport, but by mid afternoon EDT Thursday, the Solar Impulse website reported that the "zero-fuel" aircraft had crossed the Pyrenees mountains at the Franco-Spanish border, and Andre was on his way to Madrid.

The flight is being undertaken with the high patronage of King Mohammed VI and upon invitation of the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN). The prototype was set to land in Madrid, Spain, for a technical layover, as well as to change pilots, around 0200 local time (UTC+2).

The Solar Impulse team will participate in MASEN’s commencement of construction activities in the Ouarzazate region of what will be the world’s largest thermo-solar power plant. Of a capacity of 160 MW, the plant is part of Morocco’s energy plan whose goal is to build, by 2020, five solar parks with the capacity of 2000 megawatts, reducing CO2 emission of 3,7 million tons. Solar Impulse supports this pioneering project which is in line with its own message and its philosophy of renewable energies.

André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard will alternately pilot the solar airplane to complete the challenge without precedents of flying for over 1,550 miles without a drop of fuel. The first leg of the flight is being flown by André Borschberg. The aircraft departed from the Payerne airfield, crossing the border via the Jura in the direction of Pontarlier, France, and ascending to an altitude of 11,800 feet. The aircraft will then flew over the Massif Central and proceeded in the direction of Toulouse before crossing over the Pyrenees at an altitude of 27,900 feet. The landing time at Madrid-Barajas airport was chosen to avoid the peak of international air traffic. Bertrand Piccard will then take the lead and take-off some days thereafter crossing the Gibraltar strait and will land in Rabat in the evening.

This flight will act as a final dress rehearsal for the 2014 round-the-world flight. It will also prepare the Solar Impulse team to face challenges of regular air traffic patterns, cooperation with international airports and logistic maintenance issues. (Image © Solar Impulse | Jean Revillard)



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