Captain Piccard flies a solar-powered plane
A Swiss adventurer named Bertrand Piccard has successfully launched and landed an experimental solar-powered plane.
According to Piccard, the low altitude journey proved the prototype Solar Impulse was capable of safely flying - even though it traveled only 350 meters.
"With its immense wingspan and low speed it seemed to just hang in the air without moving for 30 seconds. But that was enough for it to fly 350 meters," Piccard wrote in an official blog post. ??
"The whole team held its breath while test pilot Markus Scherdel stabilized the Solar Impulse with a few tweaks of the ailerons before touching down smoothly."
Although Piccard conceded that the maiden voyage of the Solar Impulse may appear to be little more than a "flea hop," he insisted that it represented a totally "new and uncharted" way of flying.
"Never before – in the whole history of aviation - has an aircraft so big, so light and consuming so little energy actually flown.
"Such a wonderful step forward – and we are glad to be able to share it with you, in expectation of the high-altitude flights next spring. [However], I remain humble in the face of the difficult journey still to be accomplished – it's a long way between these initial tests and a circumnavigation of the world."
It should be noted that Bertrand Piccard previously circumnavigated the globe during a 20-day hot air balloon journey in 1999.