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Solar Impulse: Solar-powered plane to make historic trip across U.S. after San Francisco test flight

9:12 AM, Apr 24, 2013   |    comments
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Video: Solar plane to make historic flight across U.S.

 

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (CBS SF) - A solar-powered plane with a unique look that took off  Tuesday morning from Moffett Airfield in Mountain View passed over the Golden Gate Bridge just after 2 p.m.

The lightweight plane, which has a wingspan of 208 feet, was about 3,000 feet in the air as flew above San Francisco and the bay Tuesday afternoon, said Alexandra Gindroz, spokeswoman for the Swiss firm Solar Impulse, which owns the plane.

The plane, which weighs only about 3,500 pounds, runs completely on power from the sun drawn from 12,000 solar cells on the craft that send energy into batteries that power propellers running on four electric motors, Gindroz said.

Tuesday's flight is a technical test run to prepare for a planned cross-country trip beginning in early May. On the first leg of the trip, the plane will depart from the Bay Area and head to Phoenix, Gindroz said.

But the test run is also about something more, Gindroz said.

"For us, it's really a message to fly over the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Area," she said. "It means that we are here and it's a landmark."

The plane was created by pilot Andre Borschberg in Payerne, Switzerland, and the flight path will take it to Dallas, Atlanta and finally to New York in early July.

The company said on its website that the plane is intended in part to provoke conversations about renewable energy and to show that the technology exists to explore alternatives to traditional fuel.

The Solar Impulse HB-SIA, which is light and sensitive to the winds, was scheduled to land late Tuesday night at Moffett when only light winds were in the forecast.

The plane reaches a top speed of 43 mph and holds the record for altitude for solar-powered planes at 30,300 feet, according to the company's website.

Solar Impulse is planning an even longer around-the-globe flight in 2015, according to the website.

Real-time updates on the plane's flight Tuesday can be found on the site at www.solarimpulse.com.

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