Inhabitat is reporting live this afternoon from John F. Kennedy airport in Queens where the Solar Impulse solar-powered plane is currently parked after completing a successful cross-America flight this past weekend. The Swiss airplane landed ahead of schedule around 11pm on Saturday night after a tear in the left wing was discovered. In spite of that slight hang-up, the eco-friendly aircraft touched down safe and sound and to celebrate, the Swiss consulate is inviting the public to check it out in person on Saturday, July 13. Read on to see how you can join the catered event and tour, or click through the gallery below to see our photos from today.
“For the plane that never sleeps, what other destination than the city that never sleeps?” said Bertrand Piccard, co-founder of the Solar Impulse initiative and one of the two pilots who alternated to fly the sun-powered plane across the country.
The Solar Impulse is a fuel-free plane that took off from San Francisco in May to show the world that a transcontinental flight across the U.S.A could be completed by a solar-powered aircraft. The plane landed safely at JFK late Saturday night but had its share of bumps along the way, including a gash under its left wing as it approached NYC, a tornado-torn hanger in St. Louis, MO, and too much lift as it circled the Golden Gate Bridge. But perhaps the biggest challenge of all was the fatigue that the two pilots, Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, had to face as they took turns navigating the one-seater plane across the U.S. for 24 hours at a time.
“The weak part is the pilot,” said Borschberg. “The pilot is not yet sustainable.”
Piccard explained that if maintaining the health and comfort were not a factor, the plane could travel much further distances since it collects power from the sun and stores that energy in batteries for when the sun is not shining. “It’s complete freedom,” he said. “Theoretically, the plane can fly forever.”
So what’s next for the Solar Impulse? The team will soon be gearing up for a solar-powered flight around the world scheduled for 2015, but before that, the plane will remain at Hangar 19 for a week. The Swiss Consulate is inviting the public to a special event on Saturday, July 13 with food, entertainment, and of course, a chance to see view the plane in person. Click here to RSVP for the tour here but hurry because it’s filling up fast!