The world’s first international solar-powered flight has been completed. The Solar Impulse landed in Belgium after a 12-hour journey from Switzerland.
It made its way through crowded European airspace, flying over France and Luxembourg before arriving safely in Brussels to an enthusiastic welcome.
The plane has made several short trips since its maiden flight last year, but negotiating the commercial air traffic system was a particular challenge.
“Here we are, Solar Impulse is in Belgium, in Zaventem, Brussels airport, and it has been months of work for the entire team to coordinate the flight, to have permission (to fly), to have the plane ready,” said the plane’s founder Bertrand Piccard.
Co-founder and Solar Impulse pilot André Borschberg said:
“The idea of the project is to demonstrate that the technology we have available today… on this airplane can be bought by anybody, and these technologies allowed us to fly with the power of a small motorcycle.”
Travelling at the speed of a small motorbike – an average of 70 kilometres per hour – means the Solar Impulse does not pose an immediate threat to commercial flights, which can easily cruise ten times faster.
The plane’s founders say it shows the potential for pollution-free travel.
The project began in 2003 with a 10-year budget of 90 million euros. A larger prototype is scheduled to fly around the world in 2013.