99 years after the first crossing of the Alps in an aeroplane by Geo Chávez flying a Blériot XI, on 14th April 2009 Eric Raymond completed the same journey in the solar-powered Sunseeker II, thereby becoming the first solar-powered aeroplane to make the journey.
The flight started in Butwilll (SUI) and ended with a successful landing some five hours later in Torino (ITA). During the flight Eric encountered some very challenging weather conditions: "It was one of the most difficult things that I have ever done", said Eric, "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 Mont Blanc over the clouds".
Sunseeker II has evolved from Eric's first plane, Sunseeker. Extensive modifications have led to an almost entirely new aeroplane, complete with new wing, motor, propeller, tail, electronics and lithium polymer batteries. The original Sunseeker flew across the United States in 1990, clocking up 121 hours in 21 flights. Eric hopes to achieve an FAI world record later this year with a non-stop flight from Zurich to Barcelona.
You can keep up to date with Sunseeker II's progress by visiting www.solar-flight.com. Eric Raymond and Sunseeker II are due to take part in the Experimental Aircraft class of the FAI World Air Games in Turin on 6-14 June. Click here to visit the World Air Games website to read more.