Around-the-World Solar Flight Plan Announced
The second generation of the solar-powered Solar Impulse electric airplane (Si2) will set off from the Persian Gulf emirate of Abu Dhabi either in late February or early May for a record-setting around-the-world flight on photons alone.
Previously, the first generation of the giant, four-motor, single-place aircraft (Si1), flew from its homebase in Switzerland to Paris, later to Morocco, and then last summer crossed the United States from San Francisco to New York City. Piloted alternatively by co-founders Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, the globe-girdling flight will cover an estimated 40,000 km and take upwards of five months with extended layovers along the eastward flight route.
The team, which is now in Abu Dhabi after the Si2 was disassembled and loaded aboard a 747 transport aircraft for the flight from Switzerland to the Gulf, announced their proposed flight route. From Abu Dhabi, the plane will fly first to Muscat, the capital of Oman, skirting sensitive Iranian airspace. The next leg will include its first extended flight over over, cross the Indian Ocean to Ahmedabad, India. From there the plane, which will be flying above 18,000 ft (5,400 m) as it lumbers along at a leisurely airspeed of 45-60 mph, and hopefully a bit faster with the help a westerly tailwinds, will make for Varanasi India. Next stop will be Mandalay in Myanmar, followed by Chongqing and Nanjing, China. Most of these legs will be over land, including the rugged Hengduan Mountains along the Myanmar-China border.
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