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Plane Will Make First Ever Carbon-Free Atlantic Crossing

Move over, Spirit of St. Louis. There’s a new plane in town about to attempt your nonstop Atlantic crossing without the benefit of fossil fuels.

French pilot, scientist, sailor and entrepreneur Raphaël Dinelli has spent the last seven years building and testing the Eraole, a super-lightweight hybrid aircraft powered by solar cells in its wings and by an engine that runs on a special biofuel made from algae. The plane and the trip are a project of his alternative energy company, Laboratoire Océan Vital.

Solar panels cover the wings of the Eraole

Solar panels cover the wings of the Eraole

If the name Raphael Dinelli sounds familiar, it’s probably because of his career on the water. Dinelli has won the Vendée Globe round-the-world nonstop solo sailing race four times. Since you can’t put a sail on a plane, he’s done the next best thing and built an aircraft that has no carbon footprint.

Raphaël Dinelli

Raphaël Dinelli

The Eraole will take off powered by biofuel and lithium-ion batteries in the plane. Once airborne, Dinelli expects to run on solar power 25 percent of the flight, glide for 20 percent of the time and run the other 55 percent of the trip on biofuel. At a cruising altitude of 10,000 feet and a top speed of 62 mph (100 km/h), the flight will take 60 hours (Charles Lindbergh’s trip on the Spirit of St. Louis took 33.5 hours).

The cramped cockpit

The cramped cockpit

Sixty hours! That shouldn’t be too tough for someone whose sailed solo around the world a few times. Except the Eraole isn’t a sailboat wide open to the brisk air of the open sea – it’s a cramped cabin that’s non-pressurized to save weight, requiring Dinelli to operate on 30 percent less oxygen. He’ll be force to stay awake much of the time because there’s no autopilot either. Dinelli plans to take micro-naps (a few minutes of sleep) and is training by running long distances.

If all goes well, Raphael Dinelli will take off in the Eraole from New York sometime in June 2016 and land in Paris five days later. As usual, his bags will arrive sometime later on a different flight.

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Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.
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