Solar Impulse makes historic solar powered flight across U.S.

Solar Impulse has made history with the first aircraft to fly across the United States without a single drop of fuel. Instead, the innovative Solar Impulse HB-SIA prototype made its segmented journey using renewable solar power.

The ambitious coast-to-coast trip from NASA's Moffett Field in Mountain View, Calif., to John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City took two months to complete, landing safely on July 6.

The aircraft draws its power from 11,628 solar cells and has an average flying speed of 43 mph. Its maximum altitude is approximately 27,900 feet, while it boasts an extremely light carbon fiber structure and an enormous wingspan equal to that of an Airbus A340.

According to the project website, the solar powered HB-SIA was designed top to bottom to save energy, resist the hostile conditions facing the plane and pilot at high altitudes, and to marry weight restraints with the required strength.

The Flight Across America mission was steered by Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, the Swiss pilots and founders of Solar Impulse. The two men took turns manning the single passenger cockpit as it made its way across the U.S. making stops in Phoenix, Dallas Fort Worth and Washington D.C. before reaching its final destination in New York.

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