Solar Impulse Flies Through the Night!

By James Fallows

Given that this news is the lead story on the NYT site right now, it's not exactly secret. But: having chronicled earlier steps in this direction, here and here, I can't resist celebrating the announcement that the experimental Solar Impulse airplane has completed a 26-hour nonstop flight in Switzerland, without using a drop of gasoline. Obviously this included the nighttime hours too, during which time the plane ran on energy collected from panels on its wings during the daytime and stored in its own batteries.

A charming interview video with the international crew  involved with the flight is available at the company's home page, here. (Doesn't seem to be embeddable.) Charming because of the evident -- and justified -- pride; the equally evident adrenaline-offset fatigue from small flight crew and large ground staff who had all been up around the clock; and a few nice cross cultural touches. Eg, a man nicely declining an interview: "Je suis désolé, I am sorry, I speak uniquely French."  A wonderful achievement. Photo from the company's site below. From my China-based aviator-journalist friend Michele Travierso here.

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This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2010/07/solar-impulse-flies-through-the-night/59362/