The Solar Impulse aircraft, officially known as HB-SIA, successfully underwent its first engine run up on Friday at an airbase near Zurich in Switzerland. It is designed to make the first solar-powered flight around the world.
The test was performed by test pilot Markus Scherdel who initially ran the electric motors one at a time and he also gives the go ahead to run all four motors at 400rpm. “With its engines running at full power, it gave the impression of wanting to get off the ground straightaway… but it won’t be long now before we release the brakes and let it roll its first few metres,” said Andre Borschberg, co-founder and chief executive of Solar Impulse.
In the following weeks, when weather conditions will allow, the ultralight single seater with the wingspan of an Airbus A380 airliner will make the first maiden flight. According to Solar Impulse staff, the craft, which only weighs as much as a normal car ( 3,527 pounds and 1,600 kilogrammes), needs particularly clear conditions and less than a light breeze (three knots) for its first excursion in the air. “Compared to its weight and size, it is lighter than the best performing gliders,” said Andre Borschberg.
Solar Impulse is expected to make the first non-stop 36 hour flight through darkness in spring of 2010 and in 2012 it will make a five stage flight around the world.