For solar-powered plane, China-to-Hawaii flight is a test of skill and energy

31 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Everything You Need To Know About Solar Impulse’s Most Challenging Flight To DateAndre Borschberg took off from Nanjing, China, at 2:39am local time in the Solar Impulse 2 for a flight across the Pacific Ocean expected to last six days and five nights, or at least 130 hours. Mr Borschberg and another Swiss pilot, Bertrand Piccard, have been taking turns flying the single-seater Swiss plane during a five-month journey to promote renewable energy use. Pilot Andre Borschberg, 62, left the ground in Nanjing, in eastern China, heading for the US island of Hawaii, at about 2:40am (1840 GMT), after extended delays awaiting a suitable weather window over safety concerns. He said that if successful, the flight to Hawaii will demonstrate the credibility of the vision he and Mr Piccard embraced 16 years ago “to change our mindset regarding the enormous potential of clean technologies and renewable energies”. The 8,500 kilometre (5,270 mile) flight could set a record for duration by a single pilot, organisers said. “We have a good weather window, which means we have a stable corridor to reach Hawaii,” he said, shortly before climbing into the cockpit to test the instruments.

No ship will trail the plane as it is far too fast for a maritime vessel to keep up with, even though its maximum speed of 140 kilometres (87 miles) an hour is much slower than conventional jet aircraft. Planners had identified airports in Japan should the plane need to make a stop because of technical problems, but the open ocean offered no such possibility, he said. In advance of the Pacific flight, the crew stripped off two side wheels and internal brakes from the propellers to make the fragile-looking craft — already just 2.3 tonnes, the weight of a large SUV — as light as possible. The plane is the successor of Solar Impulse, which notched up a 26-hour flight in 2010, proving its ability to store enough power in lithium batteries during the day to keep flying at night.

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