By Mary Grady, Contributing editor
The Solar Impulse team in Switzerland has confirmed they will bring their one-of-a-kind aircraft to the U.S. in the next few weeks, after carefully disassembling it and shipping it in the belly of a cargo airplane. The solar airplane will be reassembled in California, probably in one of the large hangars at Moffett Field, home to NASA and Google, just south of San Francisco. That process is expected to take several weeks, then some test flights will be needed. After that, its itinerary includes Washington, D.C., and New York, but no other details have been released. However, the aircraft and pilot Bertrand Piccard are expected at the 7th Annual CAFE Electric Aircraft Symposium, scheduled for April 26-27 in Sonoma, Calif., CAFE president Brien Seeley told AVweb this week.
"We have invited them to bring the aircraft up to Sonoma County Airport, to the CAFE Flight Test Center, where we have the world's first electric-aircraft charging station," said Seeley. "Their appearance at EAS VII depends upon weather, mainly, and the speed with which they complete their trans-Atlantic move of the aircraft." The lightweight aircraft has a wingspan of more than 200 feet and carries about 200 square meters of solar panels to charge its batteries. The CAFE Symposium features talks by experts in energy, aeronautics, safety, propulsion and more. "Nearly every one of them is a rock-star in the electric aircraft movement," said Seeley. "Great progress in the much-needed domain of energy storage will be presented." The complete agenda and registration information for the symposium is posted online (PDF).
To hear more from Dr. Seeley about the future of electric aircraft and what's coming up at the CAFE Symposium, click here for the podcast.