Solar Impulse lands at Dallas-Ft. Worth airport in journey "Across America"

The solely solar-powered aircraft's developers say the Phoenix-to-Dallas leg of what they described as an "historic journey" set an absolute-distance world record for solar-powered aviation.

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Solar Impulse, the solar-powered airplane developed by Swiss aerospace pioneers Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, successfully landed at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Thursday, May 23, completing the longest leg of its 2013 Across America mission. The flight reportedly set a new absolute world distance record in solar aviation (832 nautical miles/1,541 km). The previous distance record was also established by the Solar Impulse, when André Borschberg flew 602 nautical miles (1,116 km) from Switzerland to Spain in May 2012. The record will be submitted to the National Aeronautics Assn. before it is ultimately awarded by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI).

The flight originated Wednesday, May 22 at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport, when André Borschberg took off at 4:47 a.m. MST (Arizona time). After 18 hours and 21 minutes in the air, he landed the Solar Impulse prototype at 1:08 a.m. CDT, Thursday, at Dallas-Fort Worth. This is the second of five legs Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg will alternately fly from California’s Bay Area to New York City.

“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. You have to understand that the pilot needs to stay awake for more than 20 hours without any autopilot,” said André Borschberg, co-founder, CEO and pilot of Solar Impulse, who still holds the record for the longest duration ever in a solar-powered airplane, at 26 hours.

“It was exciting to have on board the list of the thousands of friends who support us in our goal of promoting the use of clean technologies worldwide. We are now looking forward to handing over our second Clean Generation flag to the Texan authorities on behalf of all our supporters. The first flag was given to the Governor of Arizona Jan Brewer,” added Bertrand Piccard, initiator and chairman of the Solar Impulse company, shortly after André’s landing.

Five custom-designed flags that display the Clean Generation slogan are carried by the pilots and handed over to civic leaders at each stop. To help bring attention to the need for clean technologies, Piccard and Borschberg have launched the Clean Generation initiative. Solar Impulse has gained the support of thousands of influential people worldwide, including Virgin Group founder Richard Branson and filmmaker James Cameron.

Solar Impulse organized a number of events at Dallas-Fort Worth, including a public open house. The Friday public event was sold out just a few hours after it opened. About 1,200 people, including students from four local schools, had the opportunity to visit the airplane. Solar Impulse and Dallas-Fort Worth teams organized an additional open day, which took take place Saturday, May 25, from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Piccard and Borschberg are the founders, pilots and the driving force behind Solar Impulse, the first airplane that can fly day and night without carrying fuel. Solar Impulse is also intended to be a flying laboratory, dedicated to finding innovative technological solutions for today’s challenges and inspire others to be "pioneers in their everyday lives."

The  carbon fiber composite airplane has the wingspan of a Boeing 747 (63.4m/208 ft) but the weight of a small car (1,600kg/3,527 lb). It is the result of seven years of intense work, calculations, simulations and tests by a team of about 80 people and 100 partners and advisors. A plane so big and light has never been built before. The 12,000 solar cells built into the wing provide four 10-hp electric motors. By day, the solar cells recharge the 400-kg/88-lb lithium batteries, which enable the plane to fly at night.

For more information, visit the Solar Impulse Web site: www.solarimpulse.com.