Visitors from Russia
June 1-2, 2017
First days in June we got a visit from Russian pilots. Sergey Ryabchinsky, the President of the Federation of gliding sport of Russia, and Andrey Smirnov.
In the process of giving them rides in the SUNSEEKER DUO, we expanded the weight range for the passenger seat up to 111kg (245 lbs), flying within 5kg of the aircraft’s max gross weight. No problems were found other than a slight nose heavyness.
Flying with our Team member
May 17-18, 2017
Our team member Eric Lentz-Gauthier joined us for a few days and we spent a lot of time in the air, flying the Sunseeker Duo.
Eric Lentz-Gauthier is an excellent pilot, piloting aerobatic planes, both glider and powered. He was truly enjoying flying the Sunseeker Duo. “This is a beautiful ship. It flies very well and has a lot of features that every pilot would want to have in his aircraft” said Eric Lentz-Gauthier after we landed.
Crossing the Alps on the way home
August 7, 2015
On Friday August 7th, 2015 Eric and Irena Raymond took off for the flight to their home base, headed first to the Matterhorn and then direction south, toward Po valley. The flight was very easy in comparison to the crossing of the Alps a few days earlier, in the opposite direction. The weather in the Alps was more than perfect. The Matterhorn just got covered with a cloud cap when they approached it, however, the view on this giant, steep mountain was spectacular. ”The maximum altitude we climbed was 4545 m. We could easily go much higher, unfortunately we do not have a dual oxygen system yet.” said Eric Raymond. Descending toward the Po valley the air was became hotter and the visibility was poor. After 230 km and less than 4 hours Sunseeker Duo reached her home base.
Flying in the Swiss Alps
August 5, 2015
The weather on August 5th, 2015 was very promising so Eric Raymond and his hang gliding friend Stefan made a flight over the Aletsch Glacier, meanwhile Irena Raymond together with the ground crew went to the top of the Eggishorn, with a long telephoto lens to take pictures of the Sunseeker Duo flying over the glacier. In the late afternoon, Irena’s daughter Janja, who was part of the ground crew, got a panoramic flight around the Jungfrau, Eiger and Mönch, as well as the Rhône Glacier.
More photos in the SmugMug gallery: https://solar-flight.smugmug.com/Switzerland-Sunseeker-Duo/
Crossing of the Alps with the Sunseeker Duo
August 3, 2015
On August 3rd Eric and Irena took off from Torino Aeritalia Airport and flew in the direction of Aosta and then climbing up to the higest peaks in the Alps. Getting higher in the mountains, it became very difficult because of the low cloud base on the Italian side of the Alps and frequent downdrafts.
”Eventually we were at the base of the Matterhorn on the Italian side, looking up at an impassible wall of ice. We needed to climb several thousand feet more, just to slip into Zermatt, but the batteries were low from all the motoring.” explained Eric Raymond, the founder of Solar Flight and designer of the Sunseeker Duo. ”We flew back south and soared in difficult conditions until the batteries were fully charged. We were looking at the wall of ice again from below, but I promised Irena another world just on the other side when we started the motor again, less than 10 miles from Zermatt. Using less than half the battery we crested the lowest point, crossing a few hundred feet over people skiing.” added Eric Raymond. In August, the warmest summer month, there is still a lot of snow in the high Alps.
With the goal airport made with ease, Eric and Irena Raymond detoured to the Aletsch Glacier and high mountains behind it – the top of Switzerland, the Jungfrau, Eiger and Mönch. ”Flying at 4000 m we could easily continue to Interlaken, Bern, Lucerne or Zürich, but we followed our original plan to land in Münster, so we started a long descend into the deep valley.” commented Irena Raymond, the second pilot of the Sunseeker Duo. ”Going to the north can be a goal for our next flight to Switzerland.” she added.
The distance, Eric and Irena Raymond flew when crossing the Alps, was 384 km and the maximum altitude they reached was 4090 m. The battery pack was completely charged before landing.
More photos in the SmugMug gallery: https://solar-flight.smugmug.com/Sunseeker-Duo-Crossing-Alps/
First leg of the ''Crossing of the Alps with the Sunseeker Duo''
August 2, 2015
On August 2nd Eric and Irena started the longest cross country adventure with the Sunseeker Duo. The plan was to fly to Torino and then to head north, crossing the Alps, visiting the largest glaciers in Europe and fly in Switzerland for a few days.
Eric and Irena choose to land at Torino-Aeritalia Airport first and visit the Aero Club Torino. Due to the restrictions of Torino International Airport airspace they decided to fly toward Cuneo and the foothills of the Alps, and then to continue north to Torino Aeritalia Airport. On the way to Torino there was smooth air up high so the crew was able to cruise level with a slight climb on the solar panels. The most scenic part of the flight was flying around San Michele castle near Turin. The distance flown was 171 km.
Hot summer days
July 20-24, 2015
The whole month of July it was very hot and many times the days were more suitable for swimming than for flying. But, in the week of July 20-24 Eric and Irena were able to make some spectacular flights. Every day they climbed to the altitude of 12.000 feet or more and enjoying crusing the Sunseeker Duo in between the clouds. The Po valley was more or less cloudless, meanwhile Apennine mountaines were shaded under the towering cumulus clouds. In some areas also large CB clouds developed.
Northern Italy Countryside
June 6, 2015
Eric and Irena decided to fly with the open window and take photos of the scenic Italian countryside.
High in the sky
June 5, 2015
Eric and Irena climbed over 13.000 feet. There was a large Cb cloud forming in the mountains, but the sky above the valley was almost cloudless. Words can not describe the pleasure of flying among the clouds on pure solar energy.
End of May
May 30, 2015
Eric and Irena decided to fly with the open window and take photos of the scenic Italian countryside.
Po valley adventures
March 28, 2015
Today was a completely clear, sunny day so we made one longer flight during the day and 2 shorter flights in the late afternoon, just before sunset. Here in Italy, it is becoming warmer every day so we took the opportunity to fly with the open window.
Flying Sunseeker Duo in March
March 19, 2015
Today was very hazy in northern Italy, but the sun was dimly shining through enough for a flight in the DUO, direction Genoa.
Visibility improved above the cumulus and after climbing over the Apennine mountains the view became quite good. Still lots of snow on the peaks.
”From 12,000 feet, I should have been looking out over the Mediterranean Sea, but it was mostly a hazy day down low” reported Eric Raymond.
February 23, 2015
Irena’s son Primoz went to fly with Eric again. They were flying with the open window, taking many pictures.
Irena's first passenger
February 23, 2015
Today Irena took up her first passenger in the SUNSEEKER DUO, her son Primoz. They made 5 flights together in calm conditions under cloudy skies.
It was great to see them enjoying our new airplane!
”I’ve been flying with Primoz in Diamond aircraft already, but giving him a ride in the solar powered airplane is a completely new dimension. I like sharing this beautiful experience with him.” said Irena after flying.
Sharing the experience
February 22, 2015
Today Eric took Irena’s son Primoz up in the Duo, flying between layers of clouds. Despite poor visibility on the ground, we had a clear view of the Alps up high, with clouds all around!
More winter flights
February 2, 2015
The weather is still cold and very clear, we have been flying the Sunseeker Duo almost every day. Today we jumped into the plane for a late afternoon flight. In the cold air, we climbed 8300 feet on the batteries, the best we have ever achieved without any real sun power or thermals. We needed full air brakes to get down before sunset. It is so beautiful flying here!
Before the sunset
January 10-12, 2015
We decided to make some late afternoon flights, to enjoy the colorful sky and clouds before the sunset.
Good start of year
January 2-7, 2015
In the first few days in January we made quite many flights. It was cold, with some light breeze, but perfect for a white bird to fly out of the nest…
Chasing the winter wave
December 28, 2014
The weather has been good and we fly every day. Today we flew despite some strong south wind on the ground. There were wave clouds to the south and we thought we might be able to reach them, if the wind was really south, coming over the Apennine mountains.
As we climbed higher, we found the wind was from the north and quiet strong, so we could not venture too far downwind in search of the elusive wave. We climbed up to 8000 ft on the battery power, and finding wind of 26 mph, headed back home against the wind. Before we reached the airport, we encountered a long strong downdraft, until we suddenly broke into strong smooth lift. We think it was a distant wave from the Alps, as we could see wave clouds over the peaks. We rode the wave for a while, then we needed full airbrakes to get down. At the end, one more perfect landing for Irena!
December 25, 2014
Christmas day here in Italy dawned clear and bright, so we took a long smooth flight over the winter haze, direction Genoa.
Sunseeker Duo flying in December
December 10-11, 2014
Winter flying in Italy can be crystal clear and sunny, if you get above the inversion layer. Then the snowcapped Alps and the Mediterranean Sea make a wonderful panorama.
Here in the Po Valley, the Alps wrap around us almost 180 degrees. On a clear day, you can see the Matterhorn.
The air was still, but with our onboard batteries we were able to climb 6000 feet. More photos on SmugMug.
Sunseeker Duo November flights
November 7-9, 2014
”The Sunseeker DUO prototype continues an unbroken history of successful, trouble free flights.” reported Irena Raymond and added ”In November, when it is cold and sun touches the Earth for only a short time, we went for a long flight over the clouds. We climbed on batteries more than 5000 feet, reaching the completely new world up there. In the last few days we also made some flight emergency training, to improve my reactions to unexpected situations.”
Eric Raymond commented: ”We are continuing to prove that the SUNSEEKER DUO can fly all year round, with flights in every month of the year. With its powerful battery pack, the SUNSEEKER DUO can climb 2000 meters on a full charge, without any help from the sun. Today Irena and I took off and climbed though very hazy skies, to enjoy the bright sun and clear air above the clouds. Once on top, the bright sun provides enough power to climb up higher, and the cold temperatures improve the performance of the solar cells, electronics, propeller and motor.”
Sunseeker Duo continues flying into the winter months
October 5, 2014
Flight testing and training continues for the Raymonds into the winter months, proving that solar powered aircraft perform very well both in sunny summer days and also hazy and cloudy winter days.
July 2, 2014
Today both of my solar powered planes got to fly together! Irena took off first in the Duo, and I chased her in the single place Sunseeker II. A hazy day over the Po Valley, but it was the first time that two solar powered airplanes have flown together.
Irena's First Solo Flight in the Sunseeker Duo
June 30, 2014
Today I had the unforgettable experience of seeing my new airplane fly away without me.
For the last four years, the Sunseeker Duo and I have been inseparable, and gone through a lot together, but today she has flown away from the nest.
After many training flights my wife was qualified to make her first solo flight.
With calm conditions near sunset, Irena took off alone and climbed to 1000 feet. Her average climb at the lighter all up weight was over 2 m/sec, even though she was experimenting with the speed and circling the airport.
First Cross Country Flight in the Sunseeker Duo, with complete crew on board
June 19-20, 2014
Irena and I just returned from our first overnight trip in the Sunseeker Duo. The goal for this first flight was 100 miles to the small town Pavullo. Flying on top of the clouds on our way there, we arrived in less than 3 hours. We were staying above the clouds as much as possible to have better conditions for a solar powered airplane. Over the clouds was smooth air and full sun for the solar panels, but our path was sometimes blocked by towering cumulus. Under the clouds we were likely to encounter turbulence, downdrafts, lots of shadows and high terrain.
Along the trip we radioed our friend, Gianluca, who was flying a sailplane with a student over Pavullo. After flying with him for a while, we decided to go explore the high peaks to the south, which still have some snow in mid-June.
Landing at Pavullo was easy, and familiar to me. I landed here in 2009 during the European Tour with the single seat Sunseeker. The Sunseeker Duo was kept in their hanger over night, with the wings folded. We spent the evening with many of the local pilots and also with some foreign pilots.
The next morning we awoke to strong NW winds, a headwind to get home. The air was turbulent in the area of the airport because of the wind, but after we gained some altitude it was very smooth and we made the flight back home in 3 hours despite the headwind. Since it turned out to be so easy, we continued on toward Genoa, hoping to get a nice view of the sparkling Mediterranean, but it was covered in low clouds. Still we had some nice local flying and saw two gliders in the air.
Irena landed the Sunseeker Duo at the home base without problems, despite the rough air. To see more pictures visit our SmugMug gallery.
Flight Training in the Sunseeker Duo
June 10, 2014
Irena Raymond is in the process of becoming the Sunseeker Duo’s second pilot, and the second woman to fly a solar powered airplane after Janice Brown.
Irena recently got her powered aircraft pilot’s license, and is now adding long wingspan electric airplanes to her experience.
Cruising above the clouds in the Sunseeker Duo
June 2, 2014
It was hazy down low, so we climbed up to 12,000′ and were treated to an incredible show above the clouds. This is what flying a solar powered airplane is all about!
First Solar Powered Passenger Flight
May 30, 2014
”Flying the Duo, skimming the white fluffy clouds from above and playing on the sky, I feel like a bird. No limitations, a pure freedom. It’s so quiet! Compared to a piston engine airplane, it’s like night and day. You need very good headset in every other powered airplane, but in the Sunseeker Duo you can speak normally even when the motor is running full power, no headset needed. It is unbelievable.” by Irena Raymond.
Above the clouds with the Sunseeker II
Today it cleared up, after three months of cloudy days. I took the Sunseeker out, but it soon started to cloud up again. I took off and climbed through a hole to get a look on top. I knew where there was a hole, so I went over to it and spiraled down. It was another world on top! Very cold and clear.
Sunseeker Duo First Powered Flights!
December 17, 2013
Today the ﬁrst powered ﬂight was conducted at Solar Flightʼs test facility by Eric Raymond , on the anniversary of the Wright Brothersʼ ﬁrst ﬂight at Kitty Hawk. Solar Flightʼs mission is to lead the way for the future of sport aviation using the most advanced technologies in the world. Irena says, “We are working very hard to have the airplane tested and ready for passenger ﬂights by summer. No sight is more captivating than Earth from above. It will be even more beautiful from the cockpit of a solar powered airplane.”
“The lithium batteries today have seven times more capacity than the nickel cadmium batteries we used in Sunseeker I. When we ﬁrst sketched the concept for this airplane, we couldnʼt imagine solar cells with greater than 20% eﬃciency. These technologies are a dream come true.” said Eric Raymond.
“Flying a solar powered airplane really canʼt be compared to anything else, itʼs totally unique. In sailplanes you are usually stuck under the clouds and in conventional airplanes you have terribly noisy cockpits. In both you have a sense of urgency about energy that detracts from the experience. In a solar powered airplane, you ﬂy on top of the clouds. The horizon looks a little diﬀerent when youʼre ﬂying with an unlimited supply of free energy. Thatʼs what Iʼm most excited about with the new airplane – sharing this experience, it changes you.” stated Eric Lentz-Gauthier, one of the pilots of the original Sunseeker.
Sunseeker II Winter Flights
November 27, 2013
This time of year the sky is very clear. It allows us to see that here in the Po valley, we are surrounded by mountains. The Alps wrap in a semi-circle from the west through north to the east. It is an amazing panorama that pictures can’t do justice. To the south is the Apennine range, also high enough to have snow.
On Monday I climbed 4600 feet’ on the batteries and solar, and on Tuesday I concentrated harder on maximizing my climb, just with the motor, I gained 500 feet.
October 11, 2013
Today was crystal clear, with no clouds at all, so I was tempted away from work for a few hours to go flying. I could see the new snow on the Alps, but I headed south as usual. The air was completely smooth so I decided to see how high I could climb on the battery and solar power. I was able to climb over 5,200 feet over the airport. This was great for this time of year!
Later on, I decided to continue flying in the direction of the Apennine, I was flying through the heavy sink, but quite soon I noticed small clouds started to form under me and I started climbing. I was surprised to find thermals over the clouds. It seems the air mass from the mountains was moving in my direction. There were several different cloud bases, and one cloud formed around me as I climbed. After topping out I headed back toward the south, and noticed that for the first time in Voghera I could see the ocean clearly. I got within gliding distance to Genoa, and the sun reflecting off the Meditteranean looked nice.
By then it was getting cold, so I headed back, but there was an almost solid wall of clouds in my way. I found a gap, and flew back direct. On approach I found a strong cross wind from the northeast, which is off the trees and very turbulent, but there was no problem landing.
An hour later came a downpour, followed by a double rainbow, as the storm moved away. Not bad for a day that was cloudless at noon.
First Aerobatic Solar Powered Airplane
July 18, 2013
First solar airplane to cross the United States, first to cross the Alps, now Sunseeker II is the first aerobatic solar powered airplane. “I consider this expanding the envelope to demonstrate just how airworthy these airplanes are” said Eric Raymond. The wing structure is built to be extremely stiff, too much wing flex would shatter solar cells. As a result, the ultimate g load that the airplane can take is much higher than what is required for normal modes of flight.
Before Eric Raymond began building solar powered airplanes, he was multiple time national aerobatic champion flying hang gliders and also the first person to fly an outside loop- a feat that required a custom rig, which he designed and constructed. Now he is the first person to loop a solar powered airplane!
Sunseeker Duo Unpowered Maiden Flights
June 20, 2013
At daybreak at our test facility in Italy, Sunseeker Duo was pulled out from its hanger and onto the runway for its maiden flights. The airplane was connected to a tow vehicle, driven by Irena Raymond. On the first run, Eric kept the airplane on the ground for a high speed taxi test. The airplane handled well, so on the second pass Eric pulled the nose wheel off the ground, the wings flexed to life and with little fuss the Duo climbed into the sky.
A total of seven flights were made. After the first few flights, ballast bags were added to mimic the weight that will be added when the battery packs are incorporated. Eric reported that the handling improved considerably as the weight increased. The flights confirmed that the airframe, control systems, and landing gear are rigged correctly and the airplane handles as predicted both in the air and on the ground.
Afternoon in the Sunseeker II - above castles and clouds
June 10, 2013
Taking off at 4 PM in the afternoon, I climbed to 12,000′ using combined power from the battery packs and solar cells.
Dodged a storm
May 30, 2013
“I was in the mood to work all day today, getting the Duo ready for test flights later this month, but at 5:30 in the afternoon I noticed it was perfect flying weather, so I pulled Sunseeker II out for a flight. The flying was excellent, but a huge thunderstorm erupted to the north, and came to our airport against the wind. I landed about 15 minutes before the rain. It was still sunny, but the sky was quickly turning black.”
Later we found out that the storm created a tornado, extremely rare for Italy. The twister ripped through nearby suburbs of Milan overturning lorries and damaging buildings.
New battery packs in the Sunseeker II
May 15, 2013
Sunseeker II is back in the sky with new battery packs. The first flight since January, and the first from its new base in Italy. The flight gave Eric Raymond a chance to clean out some of the bugs that accumulated during the hiatus.
Ancient castles and quaint farms decorate the countryside, the Apenine Mountains are not far off, and the snow capped peaks of the Alps sit on the horizon. Not a bad perch for two solar powered airplanes!
15000 feet over Slovenia
August 6, 2012
With south winds here in Slovenia, we have the chance for mountain waves. I flew around for almost four hours and then I motored up to 12,000 feet. I was headed out over the airport and suddenly found wave lift right over the runway. With 32 knots of wind showing on my GPS, I slowly crabbed over to Triglav Mountain, while climbing to over 15,000 feet.
It is a strange feeling to be downwind of such big mountains in such strong wind, but it was perfectly smooth.
RTV Slovenia Balloon flight
June 7, 2012
Yesterday we made a SUNSEEKER flight for RTV Slovenia. Irena went up in a hot air balloon, to take pictures, along with the TV crew.
Sunseeker II at Motiers Airshow in Switzerland
September 3, 2011
50 years of flying for the aero club in Motiers Switzerland was celebrated with an air show, showcasing a wide variety of aircraft.
Irena and I first stopped at Mollis, and enjoyed the hospitality of the glider club there. I flew the SUNSEEKER on the ridge over the airfield, and Irena joined me in a club DG-500.
Sunseeker II wins the Schneider von Ulm Flight Competition
April 17, 2011
Held this year in conjunction with the largest airshow in Europe, AERO in Friedrichshafen, Germany is now history. The winners were chosen from the pilots who completed the flight task, to Ulm and back. As the planes competing were so different, the judges chose three winners, each from a different class.
Solar Flight and Axel Lange shared the first place and each received the award of 45,000 Euros Solar Flight got the award for the SUNSEEKER II and Axel Lange for his production Antares motor glider. In the ultralight catagory, Manfred Ruhmer won 10,000 Euros with his electric SWIFT. Find more info about the berblinger prize here: http://www.berblinger.ulm.de/html/press_pm
Sunseeker II flight to Triglav, highest peak in Slovenia
March 23, 2011
Flying from the Lesce Bled airport, I made a nice flight to Triglav, the highest mountain in Slovenia. Light winds and clear cold air made for good conditions for a long climb over the Julian Alps.
Scenic flights over Bled Lake
September 15, 2010
On this warm September day I flew the Sunseeker over Bled Lake and Irena was taking photos from my friend Daniel’s motorglider.
Sunseeker II flies at Green Air Show at Le Bourget Airport in Paris, France
June 20, 2010
Piloted by Eric Raymond, Sunseeker II was flying at the Green Air Show at Le Bourget Airport in Paris.
Eric Raymond was representing the dreams and passion of aviation and promoting Solar Flight’s vision of the use of renewable energies.