Solar Impulse to fly at the Paris Air ShowThe Paris Air Show has been the world's leading aviation and space event for over a century. The 49th edition will kick off tomorrow (Monday 20th June) at Le Bourget exhibition centre just outside the French capital, lasting until June 26th., with the first four days exclusively devoted to members of the industry and the three remaining days open for the general public.
As many as 140 aircraft will be on display at the showpiece and one of the biggest attractions will be Solar Impulse, the sun-powered brainchild of Swiss duo Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg.
André Borschberg (left) and Bertrand Piccard
After seven years of intensive work, calculations and tests by a team of 70 people, the prototype single-seat plane is designed to fly both day and night without refueling and (it goes without saying, without producing carbon emissions.
Solar Impulse has a similar wingspan to the giant Airbus A340 (63.4m/ 208’), but its weight is that of a family car, making it the largest aeroplane of its weight ever to have been built.
A total of 12,000 solar cells in each wing supply four 10cv electric motors, which charge the 400kg/ 880 lbs lithium polymer batteries during the day, allowing the aircraft to fly at night.
The project is eventually aiming to achieve the first circling of the earth with a piloted fixed-wing aircraft using only solar power while also highlighting the importance of clean technologies for sustainable development. Picard, who co-piloted the first balloon to circle the world non-stop, says: "Our goal is to create a revolution in the minds of people, to promote solar energies, not necessarily a revolution in aviation."
After making a maiden test flight in Switzerland on the 3rd of December 2009, Solar Impulse first flew on pure solar power, charging its batteries in flight, on the 28th of May last year. Just over a month later on the 7th of July 2010, the plane, piloted by Borschberg, accomplished a 26-hour solar journey, reaching a maximum altitude of 8,700 m/ 28,500’ making it the longest and highest flight by a manned solar-powered aircraft.
The project reached a further milestone on the 13th of May this year when it completed the first international flight by a solar-powered aircraft, reaching an average altitude of 1,829 m7 6,000’ during the 13-hour journey between its Swiss base and Brussels (Zaventem) airport in Belgium, covering a distance of 630 km/ 391 miles, with an average speed of 50 kmh / 31 mph.
"Nothing can prevent us from another day and night and the myth of perpetual flight," said Piccard afterwards, before telling Borchberg: “When you took off it was another era. You land in a new era where people understand that with renewable energy you can do impossible things."
Weather permitting, Solar Impulse will fly each morning at the Paris Air Show. For more information about the Paris Air Show, please visit http://www.paris-air-show.com/en.
For more information about the Solar impulse project and the Paris Air Show, please visit www.solarimpulse.com and www.paris-air-show.com