By Paul Ridden
Last month, Solar Flight revealed that the team was working hard to get its Sunseeker Duo ready for the first passenger flights this (northern) summer. Today, the company announced that husband and wife team Eric and Irena Raymond have taken to the skies together, making the Duo the first solar-powered airplane to carry two people.
Gizmag first got to chat with Eric Raymond about the Sunseeker Duo at the Green Air Show in Paris, France four years ago, where we were shown a mockup of the cockpit. Raymond turned to Kickstarter in 2012 to raise development funds. Construction was completed by the close of last year, followed by system tests and tweaks before heading up into the skies for solo runs.
Solar Flight says that the Raymonds took off together in the company’s third powered airplane from its test facility near Milan, Italy. For take off, the Duo uses energy harvested from the 1,510 solar cells on its wings and tail and stored in a battery pack in the fuselage. Once in the air, the airplane then cruises directly on solar power. The company claims that, with two people on board, it’s capable of flights of 12 hours or more.
“Flying the Duo, skimming the white fluffy clouds from above and playing on the sky, I feel like a bird,” said Irena Raymond. “No limitations, a pure freedom. It’s so quiet. Compared to a normal airplane, it’s like night and day. You need very good headset in other powered airplanes, but in the Duo you can speak normally even when the motor is running full power, no headset needed. It is unbelievable.”
The Raymonds plan to make a 100 mile (160 km) trip to a neighboring airport next month to explore the Duo’s cross-country capabilities as part of continuing flight tests.