Visiting The Solar Impulse Solar Plane At JFK Airport

a man and child posing for a picture

This past weekend I had a chance to attend Solar  Impulses Public Day at JFK Airport in NYC.

The purpose of the event was to get an up close view of their solar powered plane and educate the public about their mission. 

The plane had just completed it’s coast to coast trip Across America which was done in five legs. Solar Impulse has become the first solar powered plane to complete this trip.

The “mission” started in San Francisco and finished it’s trip in New York.
Other stops were made in Phoenix, Dallas/ Ft Worth, St Louis and Washington DC.
a plane in a hangar

While checking out the plane I had a chance to chat with one of the Solar Impulse support team members. I found out that the project was mainly funded by sponsors. I had expected that some of them would be airplane related (Boeing, Airbus) but was told that this was not the case. The project has cost approximately $110 million so far.

I also learned that the plane usually flies for 20+ hours per trip. Since the plane is experimental, it must take off and land at very early/ late hours so it won’t interfere with other planes.

a plane in a dark room
a sign with white text on it

The plane is fully powered by solar panels that cover the wings on the plane. The power generated by solar energy allows the plane to fly day and night.

I had read that the plane flies at around 50 miles per hour but can go up to 100 mph with the help of tailwinds. While waiting to go into the hangar to view the plane I was chatting with someone outside that ended up being an air traffic controller at JFK. He told me that the plane traveled at closer to 35 mph. Talk about slow!

a large airplane in a hangar

The Solar Impulse plane reminded me more of a helicopter than an airplane. If you look at the cockpit area, I think you’ll see what I mean. It was interesting to see such a small and narrow cockpit (seats 1 person) with such long wings on the plane. At the brief presentation I heard that the Solar Impulse plane had the wingspan of a 747! Even though the plane is so wide it only weighs as much as a small car, about 3,500 pounds.

We had a fun time checking out Solar Impulse’s solar plane. I look forward to hearing more about their proposed around the world flight, scheduled for 2015.

While heading into and out of the hangar where the Solar Impulse was on display I saw an interesting and odd looking plane. I decided to pull over to take some photos. 

Check it out:

a plane on the ground

Find out some info about the Boeing Dreamlifter here.

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