The sun-powered, cross-country flight of the Solar Impulse could be as ground-breaking as the Wright Brothers’ first engine-powered flight in Kitty Hawk, N.C., 110 years ago.
The Wright Brothers flight on Dec. 17, 1903, lasted 59 seconds and covered 852 feet. The Solar Impulse took off from Northern California on Friday, and landed safely in Phoenix after a 20-hour flight, using only three-quarters of the plane’s battery power.
It is not breaking any speed records, but the plane is proving that the clean energy of the sun can power human flight instead of the heavy polluting and costly jet fuel. After Phoenix, the single-seat plane will land in Dallas-Fort Worth, Lambert Field in St. Louis, Dulles airport in Washington, D.C., and New York’s John F. Kennedy airport.
The Associated Press reports that each stage will take 19 to 25 hours with 10-day stops in each city. The plane is powered by 12,000 photovotaic cells, which cover its large wings and charge its batteries.
The Solar Impulse driven by four electric motors travels about 40 mph. It could be the way that people fly in the future just as the Wright Brothers’ flight was the beginning of air travel as we know it today.