Solar Impulse 2 to resume round-the-world flight

2016-04-01 22:28
The Solar Impulse 2 solar powered airplane is silhouetted in the early morning sky as it takes off from Kalaeloa Airport, Hawaii. (
Hugh Gentry, AFP)

The Solar Impulse 2 solar powered airplane is silhouetted in the early morning sky as it takes off from Kalaeloa Airport, Hawaii. ( Hugh Gentry, AFP)

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Washington - The Solar Impulse 2 solar-powered plane is set to resume its record-breaking flight around the world next month, leaving Hawaii when weather permits, a spokesperson told AFP on Thursday.

"The first possible departure from Hawaii to reach the US West coast is on April 15th," she said, adding that location of the first stop on the US mainland has yet to be determined.

The experimental aircraft was grounded in July, when its solar-powered batteries suffered problems halfway through its 35 000km trip.

The French crew took several months to repair the damage from high tropical temperatures during the flight's final Pacific stage, a record journey of 5 days and 5 nights between Nagoya, Japan and Hawaii.

The plane conducted its first successful test flight following repairs in late February.

The next leg, estimated to take four days, may end in Los Angeles, San Francisco or Phoenix, Arizona, the spokesperson said.

"The destinations in US mainland have not been confirmed yet and will be dependent on weather conditions," she said. "We know from experience that crossing the United States is challenging in terms of weather."

The goal is to reach New York's JFK Airport before crossing the Atlantic, she added.

Solar Impulse 2 left Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates in March last year and has since travelled nearly 18 000km.

Its wings are covered with more than 17 000 photovoltaic cells that charge the batteries when the sun is shining during the day.

Pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg are taking alternating turns flying each stage because the aircraft can fit only one at a time.

Dubbed the "paper plane", Solar Impulse 2 has a wingspan of 72m, larger than a Boeing 747's, and a weight of 2.3 tons, approximately that of a van.

It flies at a maximum altitude of 8 634m and must withstand high temperature fluctuations, with the pilots using oxygen tanks to breathe inside the tiny cockpit.

The project aims to demonstrate the possibilities of renewable solar energy.

Read more on:    us  |  aviation

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