Solar plane completes Atlantic crossing

Solar-PlaneThe zero-fuel aeroplane, So­lar Impulse, has touched down in Spain, complet­ing the 70-hour Atlantic leg of its historic bid to circle the globe.

The landing in Seville marked the end of the 15th stage of Solar Impulse’s journey.

Pilot Bertrand Piccard made swift progress over the ocean af­ter leaving New York on Monday.

Mission managers will now plot a route to Abu Dhabi where the venture began in March, 2015.

The project had hoped to end the 6,000km Atlantic leg in Par­is, to echo the pioneering flight in 1927 of Charles Lindbergh.

Lindbergh’s Spirit of St Louis air­craft was the first to make the solo crossing.

As it turned out, the forecast this week in Paris was for storms, and so Seville was chosen as the safest option.

Mr Piccard spoke to a crowd of well-wishers at Seville’s airport af­ter stepping out of Solar Impulse’s cockpit.

“The Atlantic has always been this symbol of going from the Old World to the New,” he told them.

“Everybody has tried to cross the Atlantic, with sailboats, steam­boats, airships, aeroplanes, even rowing boats and kitesurfs. To­day, it’s a solar-powered aeroplane for the first time ever, flying elec­tric with no fuel and no pollution.”

Solar Impulse has moved rapid­ly around the Earth since renewing its challenge in Hawaii on 21 April.

In 2015, the plane flew eight stages from Abu Dhabi to Kalae­loa, including a remarkable four-day, 21-hour leg over the western Pacific – the longest solo flight in aviation history in terms of the time it took.

But it was damage to its batteries on that stage that forced Solar Im­pulse to then lay up for 10 months, for repairs and to wait for optimum daylight length in the northern hemisphere to return.

Solar Impulse is covered in 17,000 photovoltaic cells.

These either power the vehicle’s electric motors directly, or charge its lithium-ion batteries, which sus­tain the aircraft during the night hours.

The project is not really intend­ed to be a template for the future of aviation, but rather a demon­stration of the capabilities of solar power in general.

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