Record Breaking Solar Plane Lands

A PLANE powered only by the sun’s energy has completed its record breaking flight.

Solar Impulse, the creation of adventurer Bertrand Piccard and former fighter pilot André Borschberg, made the final leg of its trans-America flight from Washington DC to New York in 18 ¾ hours.

A regular flight should take 1 hour 20.

The whole trip began in May and took the intrepid pair from San Francisco to Phoenix, Arizona, Dallas, Texas, and St Louis, Missouri.

While the concept of solar powered flight isn’t new (one of the earliest solar powered planes crossed the English Chanel in 1981) this project was far more ambitious.

The 1981 model had a 14.3-metre wingspan covered in solar photovoltaic which powered two electric motors, which in turn drove a single propeller.

This new prototype plane had a wingspan of 63.4 metres (as big as a jumbo jet’s) covered with 12,000 PV cells. The cells powered the batteries the plane needs to fly through the night (when there is no sun) as well as four propellers, and allowed the vehicle to reach a top speed of 45mph.

However, it wasn't all smooth running. Notable problems included parts of the aeroplane breaking in tests, so these test flights will prove crucial in developing new technology.

The pilots alternated flying the vessel as it was not strong enough to bear the weight of two men at once.

A spokesperson from said: “This is an incredible achievement. It is fantastic that a plane powered only by solar can have traveled this far. Hopefully this will inspire people to invest in renewable technology so old fashioned petrol becomes a thing of the past.”

The pair now plan to try and circumnavigate the world.

Spread the Word!