Kapolei, Hawaii – Two pilots are manning the Solar Impulse 2 solar-powered airplane from Kalaeloa Airport, Hawaii to Mountain View, California. The flight is expected to last three days and it is aiming to complete its around-the-world journey before the year finishes.
Solar Impulse 2 took flight last March from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. It then managed to safely arrive in Oman, Myanmar, China and Japan, arriving it Hawaii on July.
Around the world on a solar airplane
The average flight speed of the Solar Impulse 2 stands at 28 miles per hour, but it can be increased if the weather conditions are right. The distance from wing to wing is larger than a Boeing 747’s, and the whole surface is paved with solar cells that store energy for night flight. For its size, Solar Impulse 2 is quite light, as it weighs 5-thousand pounds, just like a small truck.
The cockpit is unpressurized and both pilots are equipped with a parachute and a raft in case of emergency. The average flight altitude is of 30,000 feet, as the pilots must deal with rapid temperature swings and a significant lack of oxygen. Organizers and patrons to the mission have stated that the journey takes “pilot and aircraft to the limits.”
The voyage has not been entirely out of consequences. One of the pilots, Andre Borschberg states that he greatly admires his partner Bertrand Piccard for taking the responsibility of flying a solar-powered airplane over the ocean, Piccard being the pilot in charge of the Hawaii-California leg of the journey. Borshberg worked as an army pilot and worked on the construction of the first Solar Impulse plane, then he managed to pilot the aircraft along the first 26 hours of human flight using only solar energy.
Because it is solar-powered, the structure of the Solar Impulse 2 is fragile and cannot sustain extreme weather conditions. The flight of Solar Impulse 2 was delayed as it headed onto Hawaii from Nanjing, China. The weather conditions were not appropriate and one of the wings had suffered significant damage. The flight was then restructured and Solar Impulse 2 managed to reach the city of Nagoya in Japan, so it could head towards Hawaii in a much shorter and safer trip. But it was reported that the aircraft also suffered battery problems along the 4,000-mile trip, which further delayed the team’s flight to Hawaii.
The trip to Mountain View has an extension of 2,300 miles and Piccard commented that it is ideal that the airship lands in the territory of Silicon Valley, as it is a place of pioneering spirit and revolutionary technology.