After a successful 24 hour flight in 2010, a new breed of intrepid aviation pioneer is planning to take Solar Impulse on its first international flight next month, as a prelude to eventually circumnavigating the globe. And while last year’s success proved the craft could store enough energy from the sun during the day to stay aloft at night, crossing borders presents its own set of challenges.
For one, the Solar Impulse team will have to negotiate international air traffic networks, a complex task even before the added bureaucracy of several national governments giving their consent is factored in. All being well, the plane will leave Brussels to attend the 49th Paris Air Show in June.
Solar Impulse made its maiden flight in 2009. The solar powered plane, which has the wingspan of a Boeing 777, is expected to ultimately circumnavigate the globe in around 20 – 25 days. The team is led by Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard, who co-piloted the first round-the-world balloon flight in 1999 with Brian Jones.