I am a fan of technology but most of all I consider myself a student of the world, and I love seeing what’s out there and what people are working on. I had the opportunity to visit the SolarImpulse solar plane at JFK last week and even saw one of the pilots, Bertrand Piccard, on my way in.
First, a couple of stats:
*It holds 5 world records, one of which is the 1st ever day and night solar flight in aviation history (26 hrs, 10 min, 19 seconds and 4 hrs of energy to spare).
*The plane has a wingspan of 208 feet.
*It has 4 engines and is completely solar-powered by 11,628 solar cells
*It’s super light at 3,527 lbs (compared to a regular airplane)
*It seats one person and has no restroom on board (we asked lol). Version 2.0 will have room for food, room for the pilot to sit back, and room for a restroom.
As soon as you walk into the hangar, you are hit by the design of the plane. The wings stretch from one end of the hangar to the other and the plane design reminded my of a hang glider. The cockpit is a tight squeeze and you definitely cannot be claustrophobic. The honeycomb pattern of the solar cells are beautiful to look at when the light shines through.
Had the opportunity to ask questions about the plane and its design from a really friendly crew. It took about 7 years to build from idea conception to finished product but about 3 years to actually build the plane. Pretty much everything in the plane is manual and the pilot can only sleep in 20 minute intervals (Yoga and hypnosis help in staying awake 😉 The plane can only really fly in good weather because it is so light. You don’t really need to charge the plane up tp full power before take off, instead it charges up a little bit for takeoff and continues to charge during the day time as you are up in the air.
The plane was the work of hundreds of advisers and specialists in many different fields including engineering, aeronautics, medicine, cleantech who all came together to build something that the founders consider to be a message, rather than just a plane. The plane represents the dreams, vision, creativity, passion and pioneering spirit of those who worked on it. It represents what is possible with technology, especially clean technology and conjures up questions of what is possible in other fields and other areas of exploration, our deep oceans and outer space. And watching the eyes of little boys and girls light up as they looked up at the massive wings, it stands as the physical embodiment of inspiration for future scientists, pilots, innovators and dreamers. In a word, amazing.