Solar Impulse resumes attempt to become first manned aircraft powered purely by the sun, to circumnavigate the globe.
Solar Impulse began the first worldwide solar-only powered flight last year starting in Abu Dhabi’s Al Bateen Executive Airport. At an average speed of 45 miles an hour it flew thousands of miles, traversing 4,480 miles across the Pacific Ocean, flying for five days straight with one pilot before landing in Hawaii. Then it had to stop, the non-stop flight across the Pacific took its toll on the batteries, which stored the sun’s power during the day and released it during the night.
“Last year we demonstrated that Solar Impulse is capable of flying five days and five nights non-stop: the airplane, the technologies, the human being,” said André Borschberg, Solar Impulse CEO and pilot. “Now what we want to do is continue our flight around the world and demonstrate that these technologies can be used, not only in an airplane, but on the ground. That is why Bertrand initiated the project and I am moved that he will be experiencing full day and night cycles without any fuel.”
Now, with new batteries, improvements and other repairs, the plane and its two pilots, Bertrand Piccard and Borschberg, are resuming their worldwide record-breaking attempt. The plane took off at 6:15 am in Hawaii to complete its Pacific Ocean crossing to land at Moffett Airfield in Mountain View, CA, on April 23—flying through Earth Day.
“During my round the world balloon flight in 1999, the seven days I spent over the Pacific were the most nerve-wrecking and thrilling,” Piccard, who is flying this leg of the journey, explained. “With Solar Impulse the flight should last for three days, but this time I am alone in the cockpit, so the intensity is no less important. Every morning you have the suspense of knowing how much energy is left in your batteries. Then, with the sunrise comes the virtuous circle of perpetual flight.”
The team drew a comparison to Amelia Earhart’s Honolulu to California flight, the first solo crossing. “Despite the many parallels between these flights, one significant difference remains: while Earhart’s airplane took off carrying more than 500 gallons of gasoline, Si2 flies with no fuel. Across the main wing, fuselage and horizontal stabilizer, 17’248 solar cells power the four lithium batteries, which in turn power the four motors and propellers, allowing Si2 to fly through the night towards the next dawn,” the team said.Tweet