New Swiss solar plane completes first test flight, aims higher

The solar-powered plane SolarStratos takes off at the airbase in Payerne, Switzerland. Photo / AP
The solar-powered plane SolarStratos takes off at the airbase in Payerne, Switzerland. Photo / AP

A group of Swiss adventurers say they have completed the first test flight of a new solar-powered airplane they hope will eventually reach the edge of space.

The team says pilot Damian Hirschier performed a seven-minute flight at low altitude with the SolarStratos plane in "ideal" conditions early Friday.

SolarStratos project head Raphael Domjan aims to take the plane as high as 80,000 feet. Photo / AP
SolarStratos project head Raphael Domjan aims to take the plane as high as 80,000 feet. Photo / AP

The maiden flight took place at the Payerne airfield in western Switzerland where another experimental plane, Solar Impulse, performed many of its test flights before successfully circumnavigating the globe last year.

SolarStratos project head Raphael Domjan circled the globe in a solar-powered catamaran in 2012. He aims to take the 25-metre wide two-seater plane covered in solar panels to an altitude of over 80,000 feet (24,384 meters) by 2019.

Commercial planes fly at altitudes of between 10,000 and 60,000 feet.

- AP

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