A Swiss adventurer said his first flight using a prototype of a solar-powered plane he will try to fly around the world in was successful, reports the Times Online.
The short, low altitude flight at a Swiss airfield Thursday proved the prototype can fly, said adventurer Bertrand Piccard, pilot of the first hot-air balloon to fly nonstop around the world.
“It was absolutely great to see this plane in the air,” Piccard told the Associated Press. “It’s a completely new flight domain. There has never been an airplane so big and so light flying with so little energy.”
The “Solar Impulse,” which has a wingspan of a Boeing 747 but weighs less than a small car, flew 1,150 feet (350 meters) at just one meter above the ground, Piccard said.
“The goal was not to make a big flight, but to see if this airplane is behaving the way the engineers designed it,” he said. “And the result was excellent.
“On the other hand, we see how long the road is still before we fly around the world with it,” Piccard said.
Solar panels will be attached next year for the first flight at night powered by solar energy, followed by a series of other tests, he said.
Piccard and co-pilot Andre Borschberg will alternate in the cockpit when they try to take the plane around the world in 2012.
Piccard set a world record in 1999 when he and Brian Jones of Britain took their balloon, Breitling Orbiter III, on a 20-day circumnavigation of the globe — an achievement that had eluded many before them, including tycoons Steve Fossett and Richard Branson.