Solar-powered plane expected at DFW Airport early Thursday

Posted Wednesday, May. 22, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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The Solar Impulse, an experimental, sun-powered airplane attempting a cross-country flight across America, is expected to take off early Thursday from Phoenix for a record-breaking flight to Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.

Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg is scheduled to land at DFW sometime after 1 a.m. Thursday, according to an email from the Solar Impulse team.

The single-seat solar plane, with a wingspan of a jumbo jet and the weight of a car, arrived in Phoenix on May 3 after Swiss pilot Bertrand Piccard made a 650-mile, 19-hour flight from San Francisco.

The flight to DFW has been delayed for a week because of the stormy weather. The plane’s large wingspan and light weight make it sensitive to wind and thermal columns, Piccard told the Star-Telegram after he arrived in Phoenix.

The 868-mile Arizona-to-Texas flight would break a world distance record for solar aviation set by Borschberg in 2012 by flying from Payerne, Switzerland, to Madrid, Spain.

The planned route will go over Roswell, N.M, toward Hobbs, N.M., and then above Abilene en route to DFW Airport.

During the DFW stopover, the Solar Impulse team will host an open house from 1 to 7 p.m. Friday at the airport’s Corporate Aviation facility.

To see the plane, visitors must sign up at the Solar Impulse website, Because of airport security regulations, the number of visitors will be limited.

While at DFW Airport, the fragile plane will be shielded from the elements by a temporary shelter. The length of the stay has not been decided.

The two pilots will alternate flying the plane to St. Louis and then Washington, D.C., before ending the cross-country journey in New York City.

“Our goal is to be able to stay in the air as long as we want. The longer the flight, the more difficult it is. It’s a test of the technology,” Piccard said last week.

The Solar Impulse, which has a cruising speed of 43 mph, is powered by 11,628 photovoltaic cells that cover its 208-foot wingspan and horizontal stabilizer.

The solar cells drive four 10-horsepower electric motors that can spin the propellers by day or night. Lightweight lithium polymer batteries store power for when the sun isn’t shining.

The 71.7-foot-long plane weighs only 3,527 pounds. Batteries make up about a quarter of its weight.

Steve Campbell, 817-390-7981 Twitter: @stevecamp

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