Solar Impulse Completes First Leg Of U.S. Mission

 - May 7, 2013, 2:00 PM

The massive, gangly Solar Impulse landed at 12:30 a.m. in Phoenix on Saturday, having completed the first leg of the solar-powered airplane’s Across America mission. The flight departed Moffett Airfield in Mountain View, Calif. on Friday at 6:12 a.m. PDT and landed at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on Saturday at 12:30 a.m. MST.

The flight took 18 hours and 18 minutes, all powered by 12,000 solar cells mounted in the wings, driving four 10-hp electric motors and propellers. To fly at night, energy is stored in 881 pounds of lithium-ion batteries.

Solar Impulse has a wingspan of 208 feet and weighs 3,527 pounds. Average groundspeed during the 650-nm first U.S. leg was 35.3 knots and the highest altitude reached was 21,000 feet.

Solar Impulse initiator Bertrand Piccard flew the California-to-Arizona leg. He will trade subsequent legs with André Borschberg, co-founder and CEO. The next leg for Solar Impulse is Phoenix to Dallas, followed by St. Louis; Washington, D.C.; and New York City. While tours of the Solar Impulse today are booked solid, the team is taking reservations for a possible extra tour tomorrow.