Pilot flies from Europe to Africa with no fuel

2012-06-05 15:01
A Swiss adventurer took off Tuesday into the night skies above Madrid and headed for Rabat on the world's first intercontinental flight in a solar-powered plane.

Bertrand Piccard, 54-year-old psychiatrist and balloonist, piloted the Solar Impulse plane, a giant as big as an Airbus A340 but as light as an average family car, on the daring voyage from Europe to Africa.

As he guided the experimental plane almost silently aloft from Madrid-Barajas airport at 5:22 am (0322 GMT), a red light could be seen disappearing into the moon-lit sky.

An onboard camera relayed pictures of the Spanish capital's quiet streets stretched out below the aircraft, which has 12,000 solar cells in the wings turning four electrical motors.

Helped by a tailwind, Piccard gradually piloted the plane towards 3,600 metres (11,800 feet) as he headed to Seville in southern Spain.

He was then to cross the Gibraltar Strait at 8,500 metres (28,000 feet), enter Moroccan airspace over Tangiers and land in Rabat-Sale some time after 11 pm (2200 GMT).

All that, without using a drop of fuel.

Each of the motors on the carbon-fibre plane charges 400-kilogram (880-pound) lithium polymer batteries during the day, allowing the aircraft to carry on flying after dark.

Piccard, who made the world's first non-stop round-the-world balloon flight in 1999 together with Briton Brian Jones, took over the controls from project co-founder Andre Borschberg, a 59-year-old Swiss executive and pilot.

Borschberg flew a first leg from Payerne in Switzerland, landing in Madrid on May 25.

Organisers said the trip, 2,500 kilometres (1,550 miles) overall, is timed to coincide with the launch of construction on the largest ever solar thermal plant in Morocco's southern Ouarzazate region.

The voyage also is intended as a rehearsal for the plane's round-the-world flight planned for 2014.

The aircraft made history in July 2010 as the first manned plane to fly around the clock on the sun's energy.

It holds the record for the longest flight by a manned solar-powered aeroplane after staying aloft for 26 hours, 10 minutes and 19 seconds above Switzerland, also setting a record for altitude by flying at 9,235 metres (30,298 feet).

- SAPA

NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside Travel

 
/Sport
 

BMW drift battle: M235i vs. speedway bike

Watch this insane drift contest with four-times dirt-track World champion Karl Maier riding a speedway bike against a BMW M235i.

 
 

Men24.com

Everyday struggles of naturally skinny guys
And this year's Miss Bumbum title goes to...
How to maintain your mo, bro
Hottie of the day: Colette
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.