Solar Impulse 2 takes off on epic five-day Pacific flight

31 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Solar Impulse 2 takes off on epic five-day Pacific flight.

A view of the Solar Impulse 2 on flight after taking off from Al Bateen Airport in United Arab Emirates on March 9, 2015. (REUTERS/Jean Revillard/Handout via Reuters) Solar Impulse 2 has embarked on the most daunting leg of its epic journey around the world. The single-seater solar-powered plane took off from Nanjing, China, Saturday, the start of a grueling 5,079-mile, five-day flight across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii. Pilot Andre Borschberg, co-founder and CEO of the $150 million project, will eat, sleep and do everything else that needs to be done in the single-seat cockpit during the flight. While none of the previous legs were more than 20 hours, the estimated flight time to Hawaii, is 130 hours. “I feel confident about this flight from Nanjing to Hawaii.

The point of the months-long series of flights is to demonstrate environmentally friendly technologies, ranging from the plane’s ultra-light building materials to its fuel-free power source. It gets all its energy from more than 17,000 solar cells installed on its fuselage, wings and tail — and can fly through the night, thanks to the power stored in more than 1,300 pounds (633 kilograms) of batteries. The aircraft will climb to the altitude of Mount Everest, almost 29,500 feet, during the day to get more sunlight, recharge the batteries and store more energy.

Borschberg will experience temperatures ranging from 95 degrees Fahrenheit in the morning to minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit early in the evening while the plane is still high up. Borschberg and his fellow Swiss pilot Bertrand Piccard are taking it in turns to fly the solar-powered aircraft on its five-month journey across the globe.

Just in case something goes terribly wrong, Borschberg is equipped with a parachute, a survival raft stocked with extra supplies and an emergency beacon to alert rescuers in the Pacific. Solar Impulse’s team had to wait for a weather report that promised calm weather for the duration of the flight: Dark, stormy skies would not be good for a solar-powered plane. Solar Impulse 2’s cockpit is too small to stand in, although the seat can recline into a horizontal position to allow Borschberg to lie down. “I will use meditation and breathing techniques to calm down and sleep,” he said, adding that he plans to sleep for 20 minutes at a time, up to eight times a day. “20 minutes is the maximum I can allow myself, to allow the airplane to fly by itself – we have a sort of autopilot – it’s a stabilization system.” Piccard will fly the second Pacific leg, from Hawaii to Phoenix, a journey of 3,106 miles, which is expected to take between three and four days. “To see the coast of the U.S. after passing the second leg of the Pacific, it will be fantastic,” he told, during a phone interview from Nanjing earlier this month.

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