May 22, 2013 | 3
In a bid to set the record for longest distance solar flight, Andre Borschberg will pilot the Solar Impulse airplane from Phoenix to Dallas. Total flying distance, barring route deviations due to weather or other factors, would be nearly 1,400 kilometers, or more than 200 kilometers farther than the previous longest flight set in 2012.
On May 3, in just under 20 hours, the Solar Impulse airplane flew from Moffett Field near San Francisco to Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. After the long, slow flight, the solar airplane still had 75 percent of its battery power remaining when pilot Bertrand Piccard, who previously circumnavigated the globe in a balloon, landed the unwieldy aircraft just after midnight local time. A full breakdown of the technology that makes the manned solar airplane possible is here, including a slide show.
And here’s a brief video explainer answering the most important question: how do the pilots go to the bathroom during these epic flights?
The solar airplane has been waiting in Phoenix for the winds in Dallas to die down. After all, the solar airplane can’t handle turbulence, let alone cloudy weather. “We are extremely meticulous about flight planning,” Borschberg says. This flight will take Borschberg over Roswell, N.M.—hopefully not prompting U.F.O. fears—among other communities before a planned arrival in Dallas around 1 A.M. local time on May 24. After Dallas, the next interim stop will be St. Louis and the journey will end in New York City in late June or July.