The Two-Way
11:15 am
Thu May 24, 2012

Massive Solar Plane Tries For First Transcontinental Flight

Originally published on Thu May 24, 2012 5:45 pm

The Solar Impulse, a solar-powered airplane with the wing-span of a jumbo jet, took off from Switzerland today on its first attempt to complete a transcontinental flight.

The AP reports:

"Fog on the runaway at its home base in Payerne, Switzerland, delayed the take off by two hours, demonstrating how susceptible the prototype single-seater aircraft is to adverse weather.

"'We can't fly into clouds because it was not designed for that,' Borschberg said as he piloted the lumbering plane with its 63-meter (207-foot) wingspan toward the eastern French city of Lyon at a cruising speed of just 70 kilometers an hour (43.5 mph)."

After a 20-hour flight, the plane will land in Madrid, change pilots and continue on to the Moroccan capital of Rabat.

Russia Today reports that the plane cost $115 million to build. You can find plenty of information at the project's webpage. There's live video of the pilot as well as live readings of the airplane's instruments. The plane is now deep in Spain and should be landing soon.

The project's founder Bertrand Piccard told Reuters that today's flight is "the last rehearsal for the flight around the world in 2014."

And because half the fun in this is to look at the thing, here's one more picture:

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.