Solar-powered plane prepares to fly around the world

Updated: 2015-03-07 20:48

By Cecily Liu(

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Preparations for the first solar powered plane to make a round the world trip has begun at the Mission Control Center in Monaco.

The plane, Solar Impulse II, is expected to set a new record for flying 40,000 kilometers on solar power alone. Twenty engineers and specialists will be monitoring the flight on countless video screens at the MCC.

Pilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg will take turns piloting the airplane on its journey. It will stop en route in various cities, including Muscat in Oman, Varanasi and Ahmedabad in India, Chongqing and Nanjing in China and Phoenix, Arizona. Stopovers are also planned for Europe and North Africa.

"Mission Control Center is the guardian angel of Solar Impulse II because we receive all the necessary data to keep the plane in the air and keep pilots happy and healthy," Conor Lennon, Mission Control Center communications manager, told China Daily.

Lennon says MCC’s control team will take care of meteorological data monitoring, air traffic control, mission control and flight strategy control. All this information will be provided to the flight director, who will provide information to the pilot with all the instructions from take off to landing.

"The meteorological team will look at hundreds of weather patterns, models, forecasts and real time weather. The air traffic control team will coordinate with regional control centers across the flight path and along the flight corridor.

"The mission engineers are looking to see exactly how the flight is operating in the air right now. The flight strategists are people doing simulation and modeling work. They are doing it before the flight and also during the flight, constantly recalculating to make sure they’re flying the plane at the most optimal trajectory," Lennon says.

All this information will then go to the flight director, who will provide information to the pilot with his instructions from take off to landing, he says.