"No," Jason Wolcott, Vice President of TURBINE TRAINING in Manhattan, Kansas, shared with a chuckle in his voice, "CESSNA hasn't developed a Solar Powered Plane yet. But," he added quickly and a lot more seriously, "no telling how long before they will."
While this may seem a little preposterous at first glance, in reality it is not all that far fetched. I mean, it wasn't that long ago that no one would have thought that TURBINE TRAINING would be utilizing a Cessna caravan simulator and a king air 200 simulator to supplement their training endeavors. Yet, that is exactly what is taking place today.
"As NASA continues their quest to develop a 'green future" for Commercial Aviation," Dale Wolcott, TURBINE TRAINING's President, offered, "it won't be long before the 'trickle down affect' will bring it to General Aviation as well."
What Dale was alluding to is the fact that NASA's efforts to make more eco-friendly craft include utilizing everything from cooking oil to algae-based biofuels. And while their ultimate success may be two or three "generations" down the road, Solar Powered Aircraft as a possibility is already a reality.
"The fact that Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard are currently in the process of flying the Solar Impulse 2 (Si2) around the world is almost as major of an accomplishment as putting a man on the moon," Jason added.
Si2 is, to say the least, a "mighty" craft! With a wingspan of 72m, it only weighs 2.3 tons. Equipped with 17,000 solar cells and energy-dense lithium-ion batteries it will, hopefully, be able to fly day and night! And, its pilots are no lightweights, either. Borschberg is a trained engineer and former air-force pilot. Piccard is well known for his ballooning exploits, as he was part of the team to complete the first non-stop circumnavigation of the world in 1999. His father, Jacques Piccard, in a bathyscaphe in 1960, was the first to reach the deepest point in the ocean. Too, his grandfather, Auguste Piccard, was the first person to take a balloon into the stratosphere in 1931. And, though it is only rumor and conjecture, it has been intimated that his great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandson, Jean Luc Piccard, will captain a Starship known as THE ENTERPRIZE!
(To learn more about this topic check out "NASA and More Efficient Planes" and "Solar Plane Journey."