Solar Impulse To Fly To Paris Air Show

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The prototype manned solar-powered aircraft, Solar Impulse, is being prepared in Switzerland for a first international trip that could begin as early as May 2, with a leg to Brussels, followed by a trip to the Paris Air Show. The aircraft has been designed to demonstrate solar technology by flying continuously day and night on solar power and solar energy stored in its batteries. Solar Impulse's first flight took place in 2009. It has since undergone various system and flight tests and been flown through a continuous 26-hour-plus period without using fuel. The planned first leg of the coming flight will take the aircraft to Brussels by May 23, where it will be displayed from May 23 to May 29. The arrival coincides with "Green Week," which is "the largest annual conference on European environmental policy," according to the Solar Impulse team. The aircraft will then continue on to Paris-Le Bourget for a stay at the Paris Air Show, June 20-26. Challenges faced by the team won't be found solely in the air.

Flight Director Raymond Clerc and his team says the flight presents the challenges of less predictable Spring weather as well as the logistical and technical complications (and paperwork) inherent in moving the slow, experimental category aircraft through an international air traffic network. Once on the ground, the aircraft itself will face the more tangible challenge of negotiating taxiways, and the crew is planning for all foreseeable complications. The Solar Impulse team says it is working with specialists that include the Royal Belgian Meteorological Institute, route planner Luc Trullemams, engineers and IT specialists. Placing the aircraft on a scheduled agenda, when it is a relatively frail VFR aircraft, puts extra pressure on planners but will provide some real-world experience for the team as it prepares for an around-the-world flight.