Featured image: bertrandpiccard.com

5/06/2012: Solar Impulse 1 Maiden Intercontinental Flight

DALLAS – Today, in 2012, Solar Impulse 1 (HB-SIA), the world’s first solar-powered aircraft capable of flying both day and night, completed its first intercontinental flight.

Piloted by Bertrand Piccard, the 19-hour trip saw the aircraft depart Madrid, Spain, bound for Rabat, Morocco.

During the flight, Piccard updated followers of his journey via his Twitter, describing the “great feeling” of the flight.

HB-SIA, pictured before its maiden flight in 2009. Photo: bertrandpiccard.com


Piccard was one of the joint founders of the privately financed Solar Impulse project with Swiss pilot, engineer, and businessman Andre Boschberg. Launched in November 2003, the pair planned to accomplish the first round-the-world solar flight ‘to demonstrate that clean technology can achieve impossible goals.’

HB-SIA was developed as a demonstrator aircraft. Lithium polymer batteries are held in four engine nacelles under the massive wing, with a wingspan of 63.4 m (208 ft 0 in), similar to an Airbus A340. These turn four electrical motors that power one twin-bladed propellor.

The batteries store solar energy gathered from 12,000 solar cells during the daytime hours. This, combined with the potential energy of height, allowed the aircraft to fly during twilight hours.

Solar Impulse 1 is now on display at Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie museum in Paris. Photo: Dominique Mollicone/CC BY-SA 4.0


The aircraft operated its first test flight on December 3, 2009. Test pilot Markus Scherdel flew the two-hour sortie from Payerne Air Base.

In July 2010, the aircraft made history, becoming the first manned solar-powered plane to operate a 26-hour nonstop flight.

Solar Impulse 1 was superseded by the much improved Solar Impulse 2 in 2014. On March 9, 2015, the new model departed Abu Dhabi on its round-the-world sortie. It returned to the United Arab Emirate on July 26, 2016, after flying approximately 42,000 km (26,000 miles).

The featured image showcases Solar Impulse 1, which took four years of research and two years of construction before it operated its maiden flight.

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