MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. - A solar-powered plane that has wowed aviation fans in Europe is set to travel across the United States with stops in Phoenix, Dallas, Washington, D.C., and New York, organizers of the trip announced Thursday.
The plane, Solar Impulse, is expected to be ready to leave from NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif. on May 1, although the actual departure will depend on the weather, the plane's Swiss creators said at a news conference at the NASA center.
Solar Impulse, considered the world's most advanced solar-powered plane, will stop for seven to 10 days at major airports in each city, so the pilots can display and discuss the aircraft with reporters, students, engineers and aviation fans. It plans to reach New York's Kennedy Airport in early July - without using a drop of fuel, its creators said.
Between Dallas and Washington, D.C., the plane will also stop at one of three other cities: Atlanta, Nashville or St. Louis, said André Borschberg, Solar Impulse's co-founder, pilot and CEO. Each leg of the flight will run 20 to 25 hours.
"We want to inspire the young generation to become pioneers, to help them find and develop their passion," Borschberg said.
The Solar Impulse is powered by about 12,000 photovoltaic cells that cover massive wings and charge its batteries, allowing it to fly day and night without jet fuel. It has the wingspan of a commercial airplane but the weight of the average family car, making it vulnerable to bad weather.
Its creators say the Solar Impulse is designed to showcase the potential of solar power and will never replace fuel-powered commercial flights. The delicate single-seat plane cruises around 40 miles per hour and can't fly through clouds.
"The more you fly, the more energy you have stored in the batteries, so it's absolutely fabulous to imagine all the possibilities the people can have with these technologies in their daily lives," said Bertrand Piccard, Solar Impulse co-founder and chairman.
"We want to inspire the young generation to become pioneers, to help them find and develop their passion."
Solar Impulse's co-founder, pilot and CEO