Solar Impulse Tests Pilot Endurance

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The pilot of Solar Impulse spent 72 hours pretending to fly an electric airplane around the world last week and it appears human frailties can be accommodated through good management during the real event. Andre Borschberg was in a faithful mockup of the cabin of the aircraft that will make the circumnavigation attempt and after three days and three nights of flying the delicate craft alone he pronounced the test a success. "The simulation demonstrated that our concept of flying single-handed for several days in a row is viable," he said in a statement. "The techniques of relaxation and multi-phase sleep worked very well, exceeding my expectations by far. Thanks to a careful management of the rest periods I was able to maintain optimum vigilance throughout the flight."

All the human management systems were tested, from toilets to exercises to prevent deep vein thrombosis. Meanwhile, while the new airplane is being built, the prototype Solar Impulse will be used to test the hardware. A series of long-duration flights through the Mediterranean region is scheduled for the spring and the two pilots aboard will spell each other off as the flights increase in length. The round-the-world flight is scheduled for 2014.