SolarImpulse Team Simulates Hawaii-to-Florida Flight

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The SolarImpulse team, led by adventurer Bertrand Piccard, is conducting a test of its mission procedures this week with a "virtual flight" from Hawaii to Florida. The team aims to fly a solar-powered aircraft around the world. Piccard updated the project's goals at the opening session of the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition, in Geneva, Switzerland, on Tuesday. He expects to launch the first flight of the prototype next year, and in 2009, test it on an overnight flight. Then they will build a pressurized aircraft capable of long-distance flight, and in 2010 fly it from New York to Paris. His goal is to complete a round-the-world flight in 2011. The aircraft is expected to fly at only 40 knots, so every few days it will land and take on a fresh pilot. The entire project will cost the equivalent of two business jets, Piccard said. The virtual-flight exercise has three main goals, says SolarImpulse CEO Andre Borschberg -- to evaluate the performance of the airplane, day and night, over the ocean, using real-time meteorological data; to test the accuracy of the meteorological predictions over the time frame of the flight; and to train the mission team by simulating various failures and finding solutions.