Maiden Dual Flight of the Sunseeker Duo

Eric and Irena Raymond report on their First Solar Powered Flight

Eric and Irena Raymond report on their First Solar Powered Flight

Sunseeker Duo before launching from Voghera on April 22nd

Sunseeker Duo launching from Voghera on April 22nd

After the recent great news about Schleicher’s latest product, we now discovered another exciting maiden flight that had already happened the day before the ASG 32 Mi's first launches. In Italy, Eric Raymond who built the first solar-powered two-seater which he had “secretly” test flown during the last winter now took up his wife Irena for the first passenger flight ever in his innovative ship. The couple launched from their home airfield in Voghera, Italy. To be more precise they do have several homes, as Eric is American and Irena is a Slovenian native. Italy with its Apennines offers great flying and therefore is a good choice. The Sunseeker Duo climbed up to 12,000 feet, above the clouds. Some amazing pictures, a movie and the rest of the story can be found in Eric's blog.

Well, one might think the Sunseeker Duo is just another self launching two-seater - like the ASG 32 Mi? Of course it’s a whole different project. A project which was undertaken by more or less two people – Eric Raymond helped by his wife. They had to start with their own means and raised additional money to realize a delicate dream. Powered flying by simply using the sun’s energy. With its 23 meter wingspan Sunseeker Duo can of course be flown as a sailplane as well! Its empty weight of just 660 pounds is lower than of most other two-seaters. More interesting technical data and explanations can be found in Dean Sigler’s well written cafefoundation blog.

Sunseeker DuoYou might still have the Solar Impulse in mind, the ship which has (single-seated!) crossed the United States during the past summer? Eric was one of the people working in the background who made this happen. Actually he was the first to fly solar-powered across the United States in 1991, but this happened long before we used internet... Now, finally, it’s his and Irena’s turn to fly, try and enjoy their own project. She describes her feelings in that new two-seater in a poetic way: “I feel like a bird... It’s so quiet! Compared to a normal airplane, it’s like night and day. You need a very good headset in every other powered airplane, but in this airplane you can speak normally even when the motor is running full power.”

Now the story is not over: Eric has more plans in mind and thinks of taking the new plane up to new heights. Distance test flights are also planned. Even without using any fossil energy the testing and development will cost more money. On his website www.solar-flight.com a button for contributions can be found. Maybe a good idea to realize further development in flying technology for the future?!

Elke Fuglsang-Petersen

Elke Fuglsang-Petersen started soaring after she finished her school and college education and found herself locked into a small office for the next 45 years. In German soaring clubs she met a lot of new friends, enjoyed a great way to get out, could see things from a different angle, and gained a better overview.

Meanwhile, she has traveled a bit, flown a lot, and lived in the US.She is happy to now know glider pilots from the US too and says, “they are as amiable as everywhere on the world.” She feels fortunate to have found a temporary soaring home in Boulder, surely one of the best and most scenic places to fly on Earth!

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