The Solar Impulse 2 landed in Spain Thursday after a 70-hour flight from New York, marking the first solo transatlantic crossing of a solar airplane. A conventional jet-liner could have made the trip in about seven hours.
A flight from New York to Madrid, Spain would take a conventional jet seven hours and 41 minutes, according to TravelMath.com. Solar Impulse 2 flies at an average speed of 50 miles per hour, while a conventional Boeing 747 flies at 570 miles per hour.
The plane flies so slowly because solar panels are a remarkably inefficient source of energy compared to fuel. Tech magazine Wired found solar powered planes are simply not fast and cannot carry enough to be useful, according to the article “Solar Planes Are Cool, But They’re Not The Future Of Flight.” This is supported by the fact that the plane weighs a mere 5,071 lbs, roughly as heavy as a car, and has a solar panel-covered wingspan of 236 feet.
The solar plane cost $222 million from the start of the project in 2003 until mid-2015, and has faced repeated financial difficulties. The solar plane is financially supported by the Prince of Monaco with the goal of raising awareness of solar power and other technologies associated with the project.
“I can’t take it in, it is so fantastic,” Bertrand Piccard, the Swiss adventurer who piloted the plane, told his mission control center after touching down. Piccard say they want to raise awareness of renewable energy sources and technologies with their project.
Solar Impulse flew across the Atlantic as part of its trip around the world. The plane is not actually flying around the world in one trip, as it began March 9 of 2015 in Abu Dhabi. The plane was grounded for the entire winter of 2015 after it did not perform to design specifications. The plane has already flown across Asia and the Pacific to America and is now flying back to its point of origin.
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