Solar Impulse Plane Flies For First Time in SwitzerlandS

The Solar Impulse plane was flown for the first time in Switzerland yesterday, and leading the solar-powered project was Captain Bertrand Piccard, part of the first team to fly the world in a balloon in 1999.

The Solar Impulse team has been working on the project since 2003, with the carbon-fiber plane wingspan measuring 262-feet and weighing 4,409 pounds. Over at Dübendorf Airfield in Switzerland yesterday, pilot Markus Scherdel successfully flew it for the first time, flying 350 meters in 28 seconds, with an altitude of just a meter. Powering the four electric motors are 12,000 photovoltaic solar cells, though yesterday they were aided with on-board batteries.

Despite being worked on for close to seven years, it's still early days yet for the Impulse Solar, with the next big step in the quest to circumnavigate the world being a 36-hour flight in summer 2010. Make it so, Captain Piccard. [Wired]