How to Pass the Time on a 24-Hour Solar-Powered Flight

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
July 6 2013 2:26 PM

How to Pass the Time on a 24-Hour Solar-Powered Flight from D.C. to New York

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CHANTILLY, VA - JUNE 17: Spectators view the Solar Impulse on June 17, 2013 in Chantilly, Virginia.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Are we there yet? The Solar Impulse, an airplane powered entirely by the sun, makes its final flight in a multi-part journey across the country today. The plane, part of a Swiss-based project intended to boost support for alternative energy, took off from Dulles International Airport outside of Washington, D.C., Saturday morning just before 5 a.m and is expected to land early Sunday morning at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport.

As you might have noticed, speed isn’t much of a factor. The plane, which uses no fuel, tops out at 45mph, but FAA regulations are also slowing it down. National Geographic explains:

The D.C. to New York leg, for example, will take 24 hours or more to complete—even though the distance between the two cities is only 228 miles (336 kilometers). A commercial, nonstop flight from D.C. to New York takes roughly an hour to complete.
Because the plane is experimental, Federal Aviation Administration regulations stipulate that it must take off in the early morning hours, before other planes. Similarly, Solar Impulse must land after other planes have hit the tarmac. That means the plane's pilot will fly to JFK Airport and then circle for up to 24 hours.
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To pass the time, the plane’s pilot will reportedly be listening to music (classic rock, opera, Enya, and country) and enjoying the unique joys of flying. You can track the Solar Impulse -- speed, altitude, flight path -- here and join an in-flight Google Hangout with the pilot at 3 p.m. EST hosted by Wired (music recommendations welcome).

Correction, July 7, 2013: This post originally suggested Solar Impulse is flown by two pilots simultaneously. The plane is actually flown by one pilot at a time.

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