Solar Challenger

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After the success of the Gossamer Penguin proved solar powered flight was possible, AeroVironment bagan construction of a new more practical airplane, the Solar Challenger.

It had only a 46.5-foot wingspan, but it had a huge horizontal stabilizer and 16,128 solar cells.

The Solar Challenger flew across the English channel, from near Paris to near Dover England on July 7, 1981, a distance of 163 miles.

Photos by Don Monroe.
See all his pictures on his website

Solar Challenger set an altitude record of 14,300 feet.

AeroVironment has continued to develope solar powered aircraft with Pathfinder, and Pathfinder-Plus, Centurion, Centelios and Helios. AeroVironment is now located in Monrovia, California.

It remains to be seen if solar power is a viable option for the future of air travel though. More research and design work on solar-powered planes will likely continue in the aviation industry for years to come.