Solar plane to make stop in St. Louis

Tuesday, April 30, 2013 | 5:35 p.m. CDT
A solar plane flies over a runway. The Solar Impulse, a solar-powered plane making its initial cross-country voyage sometime in May, will be stopping in St. Louis along its journey.

ST. LOUIS — A solar-powered plane making its initial cross-country voyage sometime in May will be stopping in St. Louis, Lambert Airport officials said Tuesday.

The exact date of takeoff for the Solar Impulse will depend on the weather: The plane is so light and delicate it can't fly through clouds or bad weather.

Plans call for the Solar Impulse to take off from San Francisco and fly to John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. It will make four stops in between — Phoenix, Dallas, St. Louis and Washington, D.C. The stops other than St. Louis had been previously announced.

Each flight leg will take 20 to 25 hours. The plane is expected to stay at each stop for about 10 days. It is expected to arrive in late May in St. Louis, home to one of aviation's greatest pioneers, Charles Lindbergh.

"The history of flight is traced through our city with the support of Charles Lindbergh's trans-Atlantic flight in the Spirit of St. Louis nearly 90 years ago," Lambert Airport director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge said. "We are extremely proud to host a new aerial wonder as it demonstrates the next generation of aviation technologies."

The Solar Impulse — with the wingspan of a Boeing 747 but as light as a car — is powered by about 12,000 photovoltaic cells that cover the wings and charge its batteries, allowing it to fly day and night without jet fuel.

It is designed to showcase the potential of solar power and will never replace fuel-powered commercial flights. The single-seat plane cruises at around 40 mph.

Solar Impulse founders Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg will take turns flying the plane.

Borschberg, in a statement, called the plane "a flying laboratory for clean technologies." He said the prototype has been in the works for seven years.

Lambert officials say the Solar Impulse will have a public viewing during its stop in St. Louis. Details will be announced later.

The flight will be streamed live on Solar Impulse's website.

Solar Impulse developers hope to be able to fly around the world within two years.

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