Solar Impulse, the solar-powered long-range aircraft, has started his world tour …in the stomach of a 747.
On Monday night, on the military airfield of Payerne, Switzerland, one of the biggest cargo planes in the world, a 747, came to eat one of the lightest aircrafts in the world (for its size).
How do you fit a plane which wingspan is 72 meters?
You put it into pieces.
Not a small feat, as even cut into three pieces of 24 meters, the wing barely got into the jumbo jet—there was just 2 centimeters clearance on each side of the front cargo hold door, according to Bertrand Piccard, who helms the project.
The 747 then took off to Abu Dhabi, but before I get there, a small piece of trivia.
It's really not everyday you see a 747 on the Payerne Military Air Base, famous for its annual air show.
A 747-400 fully loaded ideally requires a 12,000 ft runway, although it usually operates on traditional 10,000 ft ones. Short-field operations, a training given at Boeing Field, uses a 9,800 ft runway. Payerne has 9,300 ft. Not crazily short, but it must have been nice to see the jet clear it.
Nice that they didn't have to use the public highway next to it. Yes, it can be quickly transformed fitted into a military runway if need be.
You might ask yourselves why would the Solar Impulse buy itself a 747 ticket to fly to the Gulf? The answer is quite simple: winter.
Yes, the airplane can't fly that far in winter (being from Switzerland, I can tell the Sun is not always there in that period of the year!)
Abu Dhabi is the the host city of Solar Impulse for the first solar-powered flight around the world. After a showcase at Masdar's Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (January 17 - 22, 2015), some training and testings, the aircraft will embark on its round the world trip in March. It will land back in Abu Dhabi in July.