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Solar Impulse plane heads to US in jumbo jet

Malcolm Curtis · 20 Feb 2013, 23:39

Published: 20 Feb 2013 23:39 GMT+01:00

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The Cargolux jumbo jet arrived at the Payerne airfield in the canton of Vaud on Wednesday at around 5.30pm to collect the Swiss high-tech prototype of a plane designed to fly around the world on sun power alone.

The cargo plane is set to fly to Silicon Valley, where the Solar Impulse aircraft will be reassembled for a mission that aims to fly the slender four-engined aircraft across America.

The Boeing has the same 64-metre wingspan as the Solar Impulse, although it is 257 times as heavy, Solar Impulse organizers noted.

The smaller plane, powered by electricity from solar panels on its wings, weighs just 1,600 kilograms and carries one passenger — the pilot.

The Solar Impulse team, headed by adventurer Bertrand Piccard and engineer André Borschberg, has flown the plane on test flights in Switzerland and last year  from Switzerland to Morocco.

Piccard, who flew a balloon around the world in 1999, and Borschberg aim to take turns piloting the plane from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. and New York.

The “Across America” mission aims to raise money and the project’s profile in a country that pioneered aviation, as well as to find new partners.

Borschberg said the overall budget for the Solar Impulse project is around 130 million francs, the ATS news agency reported.

“We are still looking for 30 million francs,” he said.

The cost of the American operation itself is estimated at around 2.5 million francs.

The project received the formal backing of the Swiss federal government, which  last week pledged to provide 1.53 million francs through its Presence Switzerland promotional agency.

“Our objective is to make at least four stops, not to go quickly,” Borschberg was quoted as saying by ATS.

The plane will be brought back to Switzerland in September.

Meanwhile, a second prototype is under construction in Dübendorf in the canton of Zurich, with completion set for early next year.

“In two years the trip round the world starts,” Borschberg said.


Malcolm Curtis (news@thelocal.ch)

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