Bloomberg | Sep 24, 2014 – Two Swiss pilots plan to fly a solar-powered plane around the earth, pushing human endurance as well as the boundaries of a technology that the aviators say isn’t anywhere near reaching its full potential for industry.
Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg will take turns piloting a single-manned ultralight plane called Solar Impulse that’s the size of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet, yet the weight of a family car.
After crossing the U.S. and completing an overnight flight, the aviators are now training to withstand flying non-stop for five days and nights to prepare for ocean crossings stuffed in a tiny cabin traveling as high as 27,000 feet at about 45 miles per hour. Corporate sponsors including Swiss watchmaker Omega and Schindler Holding AG (SCHP) are hoping the $160 million project will give a lift to renewable energies and power conservation in industry. Schindler is developing solar-powered elevators.
“This is the first airplane with unlimited endurance: there is no limit in terms of flight time,” Borschberg, 61, said at the Solar Impulse hangar in Payerne, Switzerland. “As we have only one pilot on board, the main question is, how to make the pilot sustainable as well?”
The pilots will set off on their 21,000-mile journey in March from the Persian Gulf, heading eastward to cross India, China and the U.S. before returning either via Europe or Africa.