Solar Impulse aircraft lands after 26-hour flight

The Solar Impulse aircraft, with André Borschberg, chief executive officer and co-founder of the Solar Impulse project at its controls, successfully landed this morning at Payerne airfield in Switzerland after spending more than 26 hours in the air.

The plane was in the air yesterday for the whole day, then through the entire night, flying solely on solar energy. The flight marks the longest and highest in the history of solar aviation.

On leaving the cockpit, Borschberg said: ’I have just flown more than 26 hours without using a drop of fuel and without causing any pollution.’

Yesterday, the prototype aircraft even exceeded the 8,500m in altitude that is was designed for, reaching a height of 8,700m. With the help of its 12,000 solar panels built into its 63.4m wing, its 400kg of batteries were fully charged during its long ascent.

Then, descending to an altitude of 1,500m, the energy stored in the aircraft’s batteries kept it in the air until the morning. During the flight, the aircraft reached a maximum speed of 68 knots and an average speed of 23 knots.

’This is a highly symbolic moment: flying by night using solely solar power is a stunning manifestation of the potential that clean technologies offer today to reduce the dependency of our society on fossil fuels,’ said Bertrand Piccard, initiator and president of Solar Impulse.

The next important milestones for Solar Impulse will be crossing the Atlantic and an around-the-world flight using a second prototype aircraft, which goes into construction this summer.