Solar-Powered Plane Debuts
The aircraft made its maiden voyage Wednesday in Switzerland, as a team of engineers and adventurers marked an important step in a $93.5 million project to build the first aircraft capable of circumnavigating the globe without a drop of fuel. The plane itself, Solar Impulse, is an unwieldy beast. Wings as wide as those on a 747 are decked out with solar panels to provide enough power to keep the 3,500-pound craft cruising at about 44 mph. Test pilot Markus Scherdel managed to take the aircraft almost a mile above the Swiss countryside, executing simple turns during the 90-minute flight before making a successful landing.
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