International

Huge Solar Plane Tries For First Transcontinental Flight

The Swiss sun-powered aircraft Solar Impulse takes off on Thursday in Payerne on its first attempted intercontinental flight from Switzerland to Morocco. i i

The Swiss sun-powered aircraft Solar Impulse takes off on Thursday in Payerne on its first attempted intercontinental flight from Switzerland to Morocco. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images
The Swiss sun-powered aircraft Solar Impulse takes off on Thursday in Payerne on its first attempted intercontinental flight from Switzerland to Morocco.

The Swiss sun-powered aircraft Solar Impulse takes off on Thursday in Payerne on its first attempted intercontinental flight from Switzerland to Morocco.

Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

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:

The Swiss sun-powered aircraft Solar Impulse takes off on Thursday. i i

The Swiss sun-powered aircraft Solar Impulse takes off on Thursday. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images
The Swiss sun-powered aircraft Solar Impulse takes off on Thursday.

The Swiss sun-powered aircraft Solar Impulse takes off on Thursday.

Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.