Solar Impulse HB-SIB, the second aircraft from the program headed by Andre’ Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, took to the skies early this morning piloted by Markus Scherdel. Taking off from Payerne Airport at 3:38 Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) Solar Impulse 2 climbed to a randomly orbiting path within a 20-mile compass of the airfield to the southwest, Lake Neuchatel to the north, and Belleville to the northeast.
At about 4:01 GMT, and about 5,300 feet, Scherdel reported a slight vibration and briefly leveled off until determining that it was probably an aerodynamic vibration – not a motor issue, but possibly from a hatch door. He continued climbing and performed a bank angle test of 5° at varying airspeeds and “a steady heading sideslip” to determine that controllability and stability were OK.
At 4:47 GMT the team’s web site reported, “Flight Director is quite happy: no problem has been detected on the electrical and propulsion system, stability of airplane is good. After one hour of flight… all very positive signs given we’re an experimental aircraft!”
This was followed by a series of descents and brief climbs, with a final return to Payerne at 5:52 GMT. Since the two-hour, 14-minutes flight took place mostly with the sun still low on the horizon, HB-SIB apparently relied on battery power, a good test of the on-board energy reserves.
Charlotte Pinchon of the project included these quotes in Monday morning’s press release:
“’This inaugural flight is an important stage – a step closer towards the round-the-world flight. It is also a huge emotional step for the entire team and all our partners who have worked on the aircraft. Si2 incorporates a vast amount of new technology to render it more efficient, reliable and in particular better adapted to long haul flights. It is the first aircraft which will have almost unlimited endurance,’ highlighted André Borschberg, Solar Impulse Co-founder, CEO and pilot.
“’Throughout such an innovative project, each stage is a leap into the unknown. Today suspense was at a high! The results show that our team of engineers can be very proud of the work it has accomplished during the last 10 years,’ added Bertrand Piccard, Solar Impulse Founder, President and pilot.”
As Piccard and Borschberg continue to prepare for their planned around-the-world flight, we’ll continue exploring the airplane and the highly-skilled and dedicated professionals who prepare and fly it as they continue on their quest.
(Editor’s Note: Quotations added and first video updated on June 2.)