Solar Impulse lands in NY, sets milestone in aviation history

Bertrand Piccard gives an interview about the successful Across America flight at JFK International Airport in New York. Photo© courtesy of Solar Impulse

Two Swiss pilots made aviation history this week when Solar Impulse, a solar-powered aircraft, successfully completed its Across America flight at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

“The last leg was especially difficult due to the damage of the fabric on the left wing. It obliged the team to envisage all the possible scenarios, including bailing out over the Atlantic,” Solar co-founder and pilot Andre Borschberg said in a news release.

He noted that this type of problem is inherent to every experimental endeavor and has provided valuable experience in preparation for the round-the-world tour the pilots have planned for 2015.

Solar Impulse is a single-seater aircraft that has a wingspan of a Boeing 747 and the weight of a small car. Borschberg and Solar co-founder, chairman and pilot Bertrand Piccard flew different legs of the journey.

The flight into New York from Washington’s Dulles International Airport was part of the pilots’ journey called Across America, which had five legs starting in San Francisco in early May.

The flight was made to launch a Clean Generation Initiative, an awareness movement to encourage governments, businesses and decision-makers to invest in and push for the adoption of clean technologies and sustainable energy solutions in the aviation industry.

The idea for Solar Impulse came to Piccard after the first round-the-world balloon fight in 1999 by Brian Jones.

In 2001, Piccard and Jones teamed with solar aviation specialists, which led to a feasibility study by Ecole Polytechnique Federale deLausanne. Then Piccard brought on board Andre Borschberg, and with Jones, the three founded Solar Impulse in 2004. The next years involved financing, design, simulated flights, construction, test flights and, ultimately, the coast-to-coast mission.

Solar Impulse press release

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