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Solar Impulse HB-SIA completes successful maiden flight

By Damir Beciri
8 April 2010

solar-impulse-maiden-flightTo be honest, we skipped writing about the Solar Impulse HB-SIA airplane because we waited for a bit more exciting news (compared to previous tests performed on the ground). The Solar Impulse is a revolutionary concept which is envisioned in order to push back the limits of our knowledge in the field of materials, energy management and the man-machine interface.

It is an solar-powered aircraft with unusually large wingspan for its light weight and of an aerodynamic quality, capable of tremendous resistance, despite its light weight. They plan to make a second plane capable to cross the Atlantic Ocean in 2011, as well as a flight around the world in 2012.

Under the eyes of thousands of spectators from all over Switzerland, Solar Impulse HB-SIA slowly climbed up to 1200 meters. The next 87 minutes Solar Impulse test pilot Markus Scherdel spent familiarizing himself with the prototype’s flight behavior and performing the initial flight exercises before making the first landing on the Vaudois tarmac. The execution of these various maneuvers (turns, simulating the approach phase) was designed to get a feel for the aircraft and verify its controllability.

solar-impulse-maiden-flight-2

“This first flight was for me a very intense moment!” exclaimed Solar Impulse test pilot Markus Scherdel, still under the emotion of the event, on stepping down from the aircraft. “The HB-SIA behaved just as the flight simulator told us! Despite its immense size and feather weight, the aircraft’s controllability matches our expectations!”

“This first mission was the most risky phase of the entire aproject. 1h27 of intense emotion after 7 years of research, testing and perseverance. Never has an airplane as large and light ever flown before! The aim was to verify the prototype’s behavior in flight and to test its reaction to various maneuvers. The success of this first flight allows us to envisage the further program with greater serenity!” said a delighted André Borschberg, CEO and co-founder of the project.

“We still have a long way to go until the night flights and an even longer way before flying round the world, but today, thanks to the extraordinary work of an entire team, an essential step towards achieving our vision has been taken”, added Solar Impulse Chairman and initiator Bertrand Piccard. “Our future depends on our ability to convert rapidly to the use of renewable energies. Solar Impulse is intended to demonstrate what can be done already today by using these energies and applying new technologies that can save natural resources.”

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