Solar Impulse plane completes first ever solar-powered intercontinental journey

The Solar Impulse HB-SIA prototype plane completed the first ever solar-powered intercontinental roundtrip journey between Europe and Africa yesterday.

Piloted by Bertrand Piccard, initiator and chairman of the Solar Impulse project, the experimental solar aircraft landed in Payerne, Switzerland at 8.30pm local time after covering more than 6000km. "It's been an extraordinary adventure not only for what we've achieved with this airplane, originally only designed to demonstrate the possibility of flying day and night with purely solar energy, but also for what has resulted in a tightly fused team, confident in the project and in their capacity to make it happen." said André Borschberg, ceo and co-founder of Solar Impulse. "I am proud of what we've been able to accomplish together, from the engineers that have built a fantastic airplane, to the mission team experts that found a safe but successful strategy to the ground crew who had to operate in challenging conditions." Piccard added: "The success of this mission was not only aeronautical, it also stands in the quantity of positive emotions we managed to bring to the cause of renewable energies." The Solar Impulse project was started by Borschberg and Piccard in 2003 with a 10 year budget of €90million. The plane, which has the wingspan of a Boeing 747 and is powered by some 12,000 solar cells mounted on its wings, made aviation history in July 2011 by flying through the night on solar power alone. After its inaugural flight to Paris and Brussels in 2011, the solar aircraft in June this year flew more than 2,500km without using a drop of fuel, before finally touching down in Morocco. The team is now gearing up to complete a round-the-world trip in 2014.