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"it slowly dawned on me that the landscape of science is maybe what interests people a great deal in science fiction."
- Gregory Benford

Solar-Powered Aircraft  
  A plane powered entirely by solar energy.  

I don't know who first thought of powering an aircraft with solar energy alone; as far as I know, working models didn't appear until the 1970's. So, this is a fairly early mention of the idea.

"Dad, I believe that you have been trying to develop a successful solar engine. One that could be placed in the wings of a plane to generate power from the light falling on that surface..."

"...the one big trouble with all solar engines, eliminating the obvious restriction that they decidedly aren't dependable for night work, is the difficulty of getting an area to absorb the energy.

From The Black Star Passes, by John W. Campbell.
Published by Amazing Stories in 1930
Additional resources -

The brothers Albert and Gaston Tissandier developed the first electrically propelled dirigible, first flown in 1883.


(Image: Library of Congress)

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Black Star Passes
  More Ideas and Technology by John W. Campbell
  Tech news articles related to The Black Star Passes
  Tech news articles related to works by John W. Campbell

Solar-Powered Aircraft-related news articles:
  - Solar-Powered Aircraft In Fact and Fiction
  - Solar Impulse HB-SIA Solar-Powered Plane Tested
  - Electric Jet Planes With Superconducting Generators
  - Solar Impulse Solar-Powered PlaneFlies!
  - Solar Impulse Completes Night Flight
  - VoltAir Electric Aircraft Concept
  - Transcontinental Flight By Solar-Powered Plane
  - Airbus E-Fan All-Electric Plane Now Ready

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