The “Solar Brothers.” They are not a music duo. They aren’t even brothers.
One is a visionary world explorer—and doctor. (There’s even a TV character named after his family.)
The other, an aviator—piloting both helicopters and planes—a business man, and an entrepreneur.
They are on a mission to change how the world uses energy. And they are inspired by Wilbur and Orville Wright in that mission.
Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg are the “Solar Brothers,” founders of Solar Impulse, setting out to achieve some impossible goals. They are currently on the first round-the-world flight in an airplane powered only by sunlight. No fuel. No emissions. Around the world.
The aircraft, Solar Impulse 2, is a technological marvel. A flying laboratory; its wingspan, 77 meters, is wider than a Boeing 747-8. That wingspan is over a hundred feet longer than Orville Wright’s first flight in 1903.
Despite its massive wingspan, it weighs less than your average mini-van. Because of the light weight, and lack of wheels on the wings to steady the aircraft on take-off and landing, a ground crew with two people on bicycles catch the plane’s wings when it lands, and steady the craft on take-off. (Two guys. Bicycles. An airplane. Where did we ever hear that before?)
There are 17,000 photo-voltaic cells on the wings, which generate power for the four electric 17 hp motors that turn 12-foot-long propellers. The power cells also generate power to be stored in batteries, so the Solar Impulse 2 can fly at night.
And it does fly at night: the First Round-The-World Solar Flight two flight legs across the Pacific Ocean took 117 hours and 62 hours.
And on flight leg 12 of that round-the-world flight, Piccard and Borschberg made sure that Dayton, Ohio, the birthplace of aviation, was an important stop. They included Dayton to pay tribute to the two men that inspire their innovative, pioneering spirit.
“Landing in Dayton, of course, is wonderful,” exclaimed Bertrand Piccard. “The Solar Brothers are going to meet the Wright Brothers.”
After the more than 17-hour flight from Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Solar Impulse team was welcomed May 22 at Dayton International Airport by Stephen and Amanda Wright—great-grandnephew and great-grandniece of Wilbur and Orville Wright. The two pilots scored some great “Property of The Wright Brothers” sweatshirts. (Check that out on our Facebook page here. Like us, too.). They spent the weekend touring Dayton’s special exhibits dedicated to the Wright brothers’ legacy and the birthplace of aviation.
And the pilots engaged in aviation technology talk with Stephen Wright, who still has plenty of the Wright innovation and engineering logic gene.
The Solar Impulse 12-foot-long propellers are 91% efficient. The pilots were amazed that the original designs and construction of Wright brothers’ 1903 propellers were 82% efficient. After 113 years, supersonic flight, trips to the moon, and the best engineering materials and design, man designs a propeller that’s only 9% more efficient than the design and engineering from two men in a bike shop near West Third and Williams in Dayton, Ohio.
As advanced as it is, Piccard remarked that the Solar Impulse 2 still uses pitch, roll, and yaw to control its flight. The same principles are used 110 years after the Wright brothers patented that concept.
Piccard remarked that the Solar Impulse team is flying a plane around a world that thinks that solar-powered flight is impossible. At the end of the 19th century, the world thought that heavier-than-air flight was impossible. Two brothers from Dayton proved them wrong as well.