Solar Impulse plane begins Pacific crossing

30 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Solar Impulse Attempts Historic Flight Across the Pacific.

After more than a month of preparation and waiting, the Swiss-built Solar Impulse 2 airplane took off on Saturday from Nanjing, China, for the most grueling leg of its unprecedented round-the-world odyssey: a six-day, nonstop 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. The team said a cold front over the ocean created “a ‘wall’ of clouds and thunderstorms stretching from Taiwan to above the east coast of Japan,” but with a break in the weather opening up, the plane left China at 2:40 a.m. local time Sunday (8:40 a.m. 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.

The first leg of the journey took place in early March, taking off from from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and landing in the Omani capital, Muscat. “Flying across oceans without fuel means taking renewable energy to the ultimate level,” says the Solar Impulse team. The plane, which has been piloted by both André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, has a wingspan bigger than that of a Boeing 747 but it weights only one percent of that—about the weight of a large passenger car. He and Piccard have been trained in meditation and self-hypnosis to allow them to concentrate for lengthy periods, and yoga to help them relax in the plane’s confined space.

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. After a stopover in Hawaii, adventurer Piccard — who was part of the first team to circumnavigate the globe nonstop in a balloon in 1999 — will take the controls and fly to the U.S. mainland, landing in Arizona. You can track the plane’s altitude, its distance, its energy use, the air temperature and even what the pilot is doing at the current moment (piloting, interview, yoga, self-hypnosis, resting, eating or using the bathroom).

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.

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