Solar Flight’s Sunseeker Crosses Alps

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Solar Flight of California has completed a milestone for its third airplane, the Sunseeker Duo, which flew across the Alps and back this month on a tour to demonstrate the capabilities of the two-seat aircraft. Company founders Eric and Irena Raymond flew the Duo, repeating the 2009 Alps crossing of their second plane, Sunseeker II. They flew from Torino Aeritalia airport in Italy on Aug. 2. The next day, the Duo encountered downdrafts, making climbing difficult. ”Eventually we were at the base of the Matterhorn on the Italian side, looking up at an impassible wall of ice. We needed to climb several thousand feet more, just to slip into Zermatt, but the batteries were low from all the motoring,” Eric Raymond said in a company statement. “We flew back south and soared in difficult conditions until the batteries were fully charged.”

With the destination of Switzerland’s Munster-Geschinen airport in reach, the Raymonds detoured to the Aletsch Glacier to view the Swiss peaks. ”Going to the north can be a goal for our next flight to Switzerland,” Irena Raymond said. On Aug. 7, they flew back to Italy in less than four hours and reached a maximum altitude of 14,900 feet, lacking oxygen equipment to fly higher. The Duo, touted as the first two-seat solar-powered aircraft, has foldable wings, 1,510 solar cells and a battery pack. It first flew under power in 2013.

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