Solar Impulse, the entirely solar-powered aircraft based in Switzerland, showed it can go places on Friday by making its first international flight. The gangly craft used only its 12,000 solar cells for power on the 12-hour and 59-minute flight from Payerne to Brussels, a point-to-point distance of 337 miles. There were no reported technical difficulties on the flight, which organizers called a symbolic milestone as they prepare for a solar-powered circumnavigation in a larger aircraft in the future. However, there were some other challenges to overcome on the flight.
Despite its size (208-foot wingspan), Solar Impulse is stealthy to ATC radar because of its lightweight construction and the fact that it moves so slowly. Part of the flight was conducted as high as 6,000 feet in some pretty busy airspace so keeping traffic flowing smoothly around the aircraft was something of a challenge. Brussels Airport is an international hub and sequencing an aircraft with a speed of about 25 knots also took some doing. The aircraft will be on display in Brussels until May 29 and there’s another international flight planned for July when Solar Impulse heads to the Paris Air Show.