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Solar plane touches down in Madrid

posted 26 May 2012, 06:04 by Mpelembe   [ updated 26 May 2012, 06:04 ]


Zero fuel solar-powered plane stops over in Madrid for a technical lay over.

MADRID, SPAIN (MAY 25, 2012) (SOLAR IMPULSE) - A solar powered plane arrived in Madrid on Friday (May 25) morning for a technical lay over after a 20-hour flight.

The plane took off on the world's first cross-Mediterranean flight on Thursday (May24).

The Solar Impulse prototype flew from an airfield in western Switzerland and landed in Madrid before finally flying on to the Moroccan capital Rabat.

The crew is working side by side with the weather forecast departments to choose the best day to take off to Rabat. The weather conditions forced the Solar Impulse crew to postpone the take off, initially scheduled for Monday (May 28).

Solar Impulse founder, Bertrand Piccard said the technology could be implemented in other fields.

¨Maybe one time it will also be implemented in aviation. But first it is much easier to implement it for cars or houses or heating systems, for cooling systems and so on,¨ he said.

The plane, which requires 12,000 solar cells, embarked on its first flight in April 2010 and completed a 26-hour flight three months later, setting a record flying time for a solar powered aircraft. Thanks to four lithium batteries that store the energy obtained, the aircraft has the potential to fly during the night.

The Solar Impulse project began in 2003 with a 10-year budget of 90 million euros (128 million USD) and has involved engineers from Swiss lift maker Schindler and research aid from Belgian chemicals group Solvay.

Built of composite materials and carbon fibre, the structure is very light, just 1600 kilograms of weight, and with the wingspan of an Airbus A340 the plane is difficult to control during turbulence.

The pilot and co-founder of the Solar Impulse project, Andre Borscheberg, said they had to learn how to fly this revolutionary aircraft.

¨There are the same flight controls. There is a wing, a fuselage and so on but it flies differently. At the beginning when we did not test this aeroplane yet we flew it in a flight simulator which we built and no one of us could fly it, no one of us could land this aeroplane safely on the runway. We had test pilots from the NASA for example, who are people that fly the most crazy aircrafts built by the Americans and they had the same problems. So we had to learn,¨ he said.

The Solar impulse crew divided the challenge of flying for over 2500km (1553 mi.) without any use of fuel and with zero emissions in two legs.

Borscheber flew the plane from Switzerland to Madrid. Piccard will take over the second leg flight to complete the journey to Morocco.

With an average flying speed of 70 km/h (44 mph), Solar Impulse is not an immediate threat to commercial jets, which can easily cruise at more than 10 times that speed. Project leaders also acknowledged it had been a major challenge to fit a slow-flying plane into the commercial air traffic system.

Piccard said industries should invest in Solar energy in order to reduce the CO2 emissions and obtain revenues.

¨What is important is to encourage all the industries to do the same in their field as we do in our field. That means... You know if an industry is investing to reduce the CO2 production, the return on investments is between 10 and 20 per cent per year. So if you want to get out of the crisis, economical crisis, financial crisis, this is where you have to put your money,¨ he said.

In 2011, the plane and its crew completed the world's first international flight with a solar-powered aeroplane as they landed at Brussels and Paris airports.

The prospect of flying around the world on a larger version of the craft without having to use any fuel will surely capture the imagination of many.