As a white knuckle flier, it has always mystified me why people would want to fly around the world. It seems like a lot of time up in the air in a confined space where a lot could go wrong and bathroom breaks are anything but luxurious. Clearly there are people who disagree; and they’ve devoted their lives to doing exactly that — flying around the world.
- In 1929 the first flying man-made airship, LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin, circumnavigated the world.
- In 1933 Wiley Post made the first solo flight around the world.
- In 1964 Geraldine “Jerrie” Mock became the first woman to successfully fly around the world.
- In 2002 Steve Fossett became the first person to complete an uninterrupted and unrefueled solo circumnavigation of the world in any kind of aircraft (a balloon).
- In 2005, Fossett made the first solo, nonstop, unrefueled circumnavigation of the world in the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer, a single-engine jet aircraft.
So what’s next? What could possibly top a solo nonstop and unrefueled circumnavigation? How about a circumnavigation without any fuel at all? That’s right. I said without any fuel at all.
In 2014 Solar Impulse will attempt to fly around the world without any fuel aside from the sunlight that falls from the sky.
The idea for Solar Impulse came from Bertrand Piccard, the first man to travel non-stop around the world in a balloon. “We almost failed (because of) lack of fuel,” Piccard said of his epic journey back in 1999. He decided the next time he flew around the world it would be sans fuel.
The Solar Impulse team has already completed the first solar day-and-night flight in history: 26 hours, 10 minutes, 19 seconds, and 3 world records! They are determined to demonstrate that progress in transportation is possible using clean energy. Their first prototype (the one that set those 3 world records) has the wingspan of an Airbus A340, the weight of a family car, and the power of a scooter. I don’t know about you, but that sure looks like progress to me.
Just imagine they are able to develop a prototype that could commercialize mass solar flight. That innovation could dramatically slash the carbon footprint of air travel, which is slated to be an annual 1.5 billion tons of CO2 by 2025.
You can track their progress or ask a question on the Solar Impulse Facebook page.