An airplane powered entirely by 11,000 solar cells covering its gigantic wings just completed the furthest continuous flight of a vehicle of its type in history early this morning local time, traveling 957 miles from Phoenix, Arizona, to Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas. The airplane, the Solar Impulse HB-SIA, made the trip as part of its ongoing flight across the continental US, which organizers say is designed to show off the practical applications of solar power. The cross-country flight is taking place now in several stages, but this particular part of the journey was the longest in terms of distance and time, and the most challenging yet for the aircraft and its pilot, who had to say awake for 18 hours as the Solar Impulse sailed across the sky.
"This leg was particularly challenging because of fairly strong winds."
"This leg was particularly challenging because of fairly strong winds at the landing. It also was the longest flight—in terms of distance—ever flown by a solar airplane," the plane's pilot Andre Borschberg said in a statement, as PhysOrg reported. However, Borschberg was also able to have some fun "surfing" the "wind waves" of the sky over the course of the flight, bobbing up and down with updrafts, as Solar Impulse said in a statement.
Borschberg and his co-pilot Bertrand Piccard previously are taking turns for each leg of the journey from San Francisco to New York. The Solar Impulse's previous furthest flight was a 693-mile trip from Switzerland to Spain. In 2015, Borschberg and Piccard want to fly the aircraft around the entire globe. Today's milestone puts them a bit closer to that goal.