6 thoughts on “Solar plane completes dangerous 3-day flight over the Pacific Ocean”

  1. I am a retired aero engineer and aircraft enthusiast. As a hobby, I like to calculate the predicted performance of airplanes from basic drawings and specifications. In the 1980s I was a worker bee in the R&D group of a major military aircraft manufacturer and we did some basic stuff on solar powered drones that would operate above 60,000 feet. It was a difficult engineering problem that needed development of many technologies. We needed “beyond state of the art” improvements in structural concepts, materials, manufacturing, low speed aerodynamics, propulsive efficiency, electric energy production, energy storage, power management and even cooling systems. It was challenging stuff for a junior engineer. I was ready to do my part. Management of my company decided the cost of development was way beyond potential rewards, so it went no-where. Since then I watched all the small efforts come and go. The most impressive and bold (risky) hardware came from Aerovironment. The company founder, Paul MacReady, was the guru of slow, minimum power required aircraft design. Aerovironment had some impressive successes and spectacular failures. It was entertaining, but even they are still unable to get a commercial success from their expertise after 30 years at it. Solar Impulse II is a well engineered aircraft that does it all over again. The plane does not have the altitude capability because of the weight penalty of a pilot. It is proving the impracticality of these fragile and expensive freaks, but I am still inspired by the achievement. Using other people’s (taxpayers) money might still uncover a military niche?
    Consider this thought: If steam propulsion was invented before sail, the record setting racing sailboats of today would be touted as the future of commercial marine transportation. However, in reality, they are also fragile and expensive technology freaks with very little commercial transportation potential.
    By comparison, the Wright brothers (high school drop-outs) were able to solve many structural, aerodynamic, propulsion, stability and control problems between 1899 and 1903. They made impressive demonstrations of their understanding in 1903. Many talented people were inspired. By 1945, the aeroplane was a massive military and commercial success with icons like the DC-3 manufactured by the thousands. My point is that some technology development has relevance to society, and some not. Based on the time and money spent on it so far, solar powered aircraft are not going to be a significant milestone in history. It is only because of the politically motivated “green” movement that substantial money is able to be raised for this project. The results are an engineering achievement, but all but aeronautical geeks and greens should be unimpressed. The resources could have been used elsewhere. You pick.

  2. Brad Fegger … don’t be such a nudge, you aren’t that smart … plebian, “of or characteristic of the lower class” … so I assume you think of yourself as a patrician …
    the construction of this plane was not the “first” at anything … the airframe alone is the result of decades of research and development in materials and the rest of the gear is cutting or bleeding edge stuff … I doubt a better model will be built for decades … the one part that was not an upgrade was the 2 human pilots and the infinite stupidity of putting 2 mens lives at risk when the plane could have been remotely piloted the entire time …

  3. Wait a sec… if all our energy were to come from solar panels on planes, ship and every available open space… wouldn’t that cause global cooling be absorbing all the heat from the sun? Now THAT would be man made climate change!

  4. Don’t be so plebeian! The first computers took up a room, cost millions, and went down if a bug flew into the works. There is no doubt that the vast majority of our energy (nuclear is a exception) currently comes as a gift from the sun. I’m actually excited that a solar powered plane could accomplish a flight across the pacific. Nobody knows the benefit that will come from this attempt, much like nobody knows the processes behind climate change.

  5. Okay … now to make it feasible for commercial flights … or … great concept, but, how long will it take to develop into a viable means of transportation? Now the radicals will demand we stop using aircraft that burn fuel … with no lead-time to put this on line.

  6. The goal is to create the fantasy that air travel will survive the death of fossil fuels. The truth is that heavier than air travel will be the realm of the privileged few if fossil fuels are not cheap and plentiful.

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