Sunseeker II

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I had been following the Sunseeker II this spring as Eric Raymond prepared for the European tour of the plane when I fell ill with gradually worsening symptoms. Finally returning from emergency May 15 brain cancer surgery I found Eric had started his tour of Europe in Sunseeker II. The first leg was perfect, and Eric had flown over the Alps and the length of Italy to Sicily, completing the leg on May 3, 2009.

The European Tour Journal is incredible and I read every word. The most impressive part to me was the video below of Eric flying over the Alps on April 14, 99 years after the first crossing of the Alps in an airplane by Geo Chavez flying a Bleriot XI, Eric Raymond completed the first crossing of the Alps made by a solar airplane! In the Journal is a quote from Eric,

"It was one of the most difficult things that I have ever done, but it was also the most beautiful flight I have ever made. It was very cloudy, but after fighting to gain altitude I got over the clouds and cruised on direct solar power, eventually climbing to 13,700 ft. It was amazing to see the peaks of the mountains coming upthrough the clouds. I could clearly see the Matterhorn and Mt Blanc over the clouds. I could not see anything in the direction of Italy, except a solid wall of clouds. I tried to climb over them on course for Torino, but I had to fly between towering cumulo-nimbus clouds. I was in bright sun, when I noticed that I was flying through large snowflakes. That was the first sign of trouble. Soon I was trapped over these rising clouds, with my escape closed off. I was climbing at full power, but the clouds were rising faster. It was snowing on me, even though I was in the sun! Desperately flying around in my shrinking trap I found a small hole, where I could see the ground. Just snow and trees. I turned off the motor, set the airbrakes, and spiraled down 7000 ft, until I was just under the clouds. I wanted to take a picture of the snow, but I couldn't take my hands from the controls. After feeling desperate about flying through clouds in a blinding snowstorm, I felt much better seeing that the clouds did not go all the way to the ground. I even flew with a sailplane and a paraglider, so I did not feel so alone. Because of the thunderstorms, I left the Alps early, and had a long crossing over the Italian flats. It seemed to take forever to get to Torino, but in reality the entire flight took less than 5.5 hours. TV crews were waiting, and we saw the story on the national news that night in our hotel, just before a nice dinner with our hosts, the organizers of the World Air Games 2009. We are now preparing to continue down the length of Italy, to Sicily."

- Eric Raymond

History: After flying across the United States in 1990 in Sunseeker I, Eric now flies Sunseeker II. A new wing with a different plan form, more surface area for solar cell coverage, and a new technique for integrating the latest generation of solar cells into the actual wing structure rather than bonding them to the surface. The new aircraft features a unique teetering propeller, which drastically reduces vibration. In 2006, a new motor was constructed for the airplane that is twice as powerful as Sunseeker I's motor. An improved tail was fitted to the aircraft in addition to a new set of control electronics designed by Alan Cocconi for the batteries and solar arrays. The new electronics greatly increase the system's efficiency. As a final touch, the new aircraft is fitted with four packs of advanced lithium polymer batteries, which find their home in the wings of the airplane.

Today Sunseeker II is the only manned solar airplane flying in the world. It has logged more time in the air than all other manned solar powered airplanes combined. It continues to raise the bar for solar powered aircraft and inspire the world to think seriously about the beautiful future that we can look forward to if we take bold steps today.

First flown in San Diego - now Sunseeker II lives in Switzerland where it flies regularly and is doing the Euro-tour.

Solar Flight has a website to follow the Sunseeker II 2009 European tour

Learn more about the Sunseeker II on the Solar Flight website. Solar Flight is not just building planes, they have other projects in the works!