Swiss team claims 1st jump, free fall from solar plane

BERLIN (AP) — A Swiss team working to take a solar-powered plane to the edge of space said it has performed the first jump and free fall from an electric aircraft.

The SolarStratos team said its experimental plane took off from an airfield in western Switzerland with two people on board early on Tuesday and climbed to 1,520 metres before its founder, Raphaël Domjan, jumped out of the aircraft.

It said Domjan remained in free fall for several hundred metres, reaching speeds of over 93mph before releasing his parachute and landing safely.

The team quoted Domjan saying the stunt was part of the goal of demonstrating that activities such as skydiving can be carried out without producing planet-warming greenhouse gases.

Emissions from kerosene-fuelled planes currently account for about two per cent of the man-made carbon emissions.

“I hope that this will continue to make the young people of tomorrow dream, thanks to aircraft that are more respectful of our planet and our climate,” he added.

The SolarStratos team follows the pioneering work of Switzerland’s Solar Impulse mission, which completed the first circumnavigation of the globe with a solar-powered plane in 2016.

The team’s goal is to eventually fly the single-propeller aircraft studded with 237 square feet of solar panels into the stratosphere.

Swiss adventurer Raphael Domjan jumps from the SolarStratos solar powered aircraft prototype with Spanish test pilot Miguel A Iturmendi aboard during a test flight and attempt to break two world records at the airbase in Payerne, Switzerland on Tuesday. PHOTO: AP