VANDALIA — As the world of aviation continues to evolve, the path of aviation history once again touched Dayton on Saturday as Solar Impulse 2 touched down at the Dayton International Airport.
Si2 is a solar-powered airplane, designed in Switzerland, on a historic trek to become the first solar-powered aircraft to fly around the world.
Swiss pioneers Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg are piloting the enormous airplane on its journey, taking turns at the controls in the single-seat cockpit, as it continues its west-to-east trip, flying day and night without using a drop of fuel.
Borschberg, who is the initiator and chairman of the Solar Impulse 2 group and piloted Si2 into Dayton, was excited as he spoke with reporters and onlookers who gathered at the Dayton Airport on Saturday evening to watch the arrival.
“What was special today was that the 21st of May is the anniversary of Charles Lindbergh landing in Paris after the crossing of the Atlantic,” said Borschberg. “At the same time, I was flying over St. Louis (in reference to Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis crossing the Atlantic Ocean non-stop in 1927). And then I arrived here in Dayton, where aviation was created.”
On hand to greet Borschberg were Stephen Wright and Amanda Wright Lane, great-grand-nephew and great-grand-niece of Wilbur and Orville Wright. Handshakes and hugs were exchanged in an emotional ceremony in front of Si2 and a proclamation from Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, was read by Dayton’s Director of Aviation Terry Slaybaugh, welcoming the Si2 pilots and their team to the Birthplace of Aviation.
Si2 is described as “a concentration of clean technologies, a flying laboratory.” The aircraft is made of carbon fiber and has a 236-foot wingspan, larger than that of a Boeing 747, yet it weighs only 5,100 pounds. It carries 17,248 solar cells built into the wings. The cells power four 38.5-watt batteries that in turn provide power to four electric motors of 17.5 horsepower each. The airplane is therefore capable of saving a maximum amount of energy during the day and flying on battery power through the night. Si2 requires zero fuel to operate and could fly for an unlimited amount of time, limited only by the pilot’s endurance.
Si2 is in a specially built, inflatable hangar at the airport and is scheduled to be there through early Tuesday morning, when pilot Bertrand Piccard will board the craft and begin the next leg of the around-the-world trip, stopping next in New York before Borschberg will get back behind the controls for the long, over-the-water flight across the Atlantic Ocean.
The project is supported by Solvay, Omega, Schindler, ABB, Google, Altran, Covestro, Swiss Re Corporate Solutions, Swisscom and Moet Hennessy, Masdar in Abu Dhabi and Foundation Prince Albert II in Monaco.
The main goal of the project is to prove that clean technologies can acheive the impossible.
To follow the progress of Si2, the pilots, crew and support team, you can visit www.solarimpulse.com.
Reach Mike Ullery at (937) 451-3335 or on Twitter @The DailyCall