Solar-powered plane ready to resume its historic round-the-world flight

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The pioneering Swiss team behind the solar-powered plane Solar Impulse 2 have announced they are now set to resume their attempt to achieve the first ever round-the-world solar flight.

Late last week the team announced they are now re-entering “mission mode”, and are awaiting the first favourable weather conditions to re-embark upon their solar-powered journey to North America.

The aircraft made headlines over the summer with a record-breaking five-day flight of over 8,900km from Japan to Hawaii, — at 117 hours and 52 minutes.

During this flight, the airplane suffered battery damage due to overheating which led to an unforeseen pause in the adventure.

As we experienced many times with Solar Impulse, obstacles often turn out to be opportunities for improvement,” explained André Borschberg, CEO and Co-Founder.

Ultimately, this time was used to recreate the strong mindset within the team to continue our adventure. It takes sometimes more time to build up the right spirit then to develop new technologies.”

Solar Impulse was fortunate to find a shelter to protect the airplane during the winter on Kalaeloa airport, Hawaii.

After spending the winter at Kalaeloa airport, the Solar Impulse team was able to repair the plane and successfully conduct 13 test flights in Hawaii, as well as a number of high-altitude training flights with the pilots Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Picard.

They’re now prepared to cross the rest of the Pacific and then continue around the rest of the world.

Solar Impulse 2—with a wingspan comparable to a Boeing 747—weighs about as much as a midsize car and has engine power comparable to a small motorcycle. Its slow speed and passenger capacity of one (the pilot) means it won’t be replacing the 460-passenger, 560-mph Boeing 787.

For an airline industry that’s currently burning 16 billion gallons of jet fuel a year and on course to triple its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, clean energy alternatives are desperately needed.

“An airplane with perpetual flight endurance, without fuel, like the Solar Impulse is not only a first in the history of aviation, but also in the history of energy,” emphasized Bertrand Piccard, Initiator and Chairman of the project.

“The primary purpose of this adventure is to demonstrate that modern clean technologies can achieve the impossible and encourage everyone to use these same energy efficient solutions on the ground in their daily lives for mobility, construction, lighting, heating, cooling and more.” 

Borschberg and Piccard are waiting for a clear weather window to complete the expected four-day flight from Hawaii to one of four potential locations along the West Coast of North America, Their destination will depend on weather patterns.

The team is examining four potential destinations: Phoenix, the San Francisco area, Los Angeles and Vancouver.

The final landing place will be chosen a couple of days before departure depending on the weather conditions. The mission will then continue onward to New York, Europe or North Africa and Abu Dhabi where it all started.

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