Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg is preparing to fly his solar aircraft around the Statue of Liberty early Tuesday, entertaining onlookers with a symbol of what clean technology can accomplish.
Solar Impulse, a one-man airplane that doesn’t require a drop of fuel, will take off at about midnight from Allentown, Pennsylvania, and head for New York City, after a short test flight, Borschberg said by telephone Monday. He’s been taking turns with flying partner and hot-air balloon adventurer Bertrand Piccard in an attempt to circumnavigate the globe using solar energy. After being grounded nine months in Hawaii because the batteries overheated, Solar Impulse resumed its journey in April and has made stops in San Francisco; Phoenix; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Dayton, Ohio; and Allentown.
‘‘It’s symbolic that we’ll be flying around the Statue of Liberty,’’ said Borschberg, a former Swiss air force pilot. ‘‘It’s a way to pay tribute to the fantastic welcome we’ve received in this country.’’
The aircraft, which has the wingspan of a Boeing Co. 747 jumbo jet but weighs no more than a family car, will probably approach the Statue of Liberty between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m., flying at an altitude of about 1,600 feet (490 meters), Borschberg said. Both the plane and the monument will be illuminated, and the best sites to watch will be posted on the Solar Impulse website. Then the plane will then land at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Solar Impulse began its journey from Abu Dhabi in March 2015. This is one of the shortest legs of the journey, though Borschberg said it’s one of the most complicated because of coastal winds and the amount of commercial air traffic around New York.