The “Solar Impulse 2,” an airplane completely fueled by solar power, made History when it accomplished the 8th leg of a 13-segment flight around the world, landing in Hawaii on July 3, 2015.
Unfortunately, the Solar Impulse and its pilots will be grounded in Hawaii for a minimum of 8 months while the plane’s batteries are replaced and tested. The batteries overheated to the point of irreparable damage during this latest segment of the global trip.
The 4,481 mile nonstop flight from Japan to Oahu, Hawaii, lasted 4 days, 21 hours and 52 minutes at an average speed of 38 mph. The pilot and co-founder of experimental solar-powered flight, André Borschberg, necessarily took a series of 20-minute naps along the way.
The Solar Impulse 2 is a 5,070 lb. plane has a 236-foot wingspan and is composed mostly of carbon fiber. The 17,000+ solar cells on its wings recharge the Solar Impulse 2’s 4 lithium polymer batteries, empowering it to fly day and night. As a result, the craft is a “zero-fuel” plane that does not stop for refueling of any kind, ever.
In comparison to a Boeing 747-8, which reaches a top speed of 614 mph and can knock out that 4,481 mile trip in less than 8 hours, the Solar Impulse 2 might not impress. However, the solar-powered flight broke several aviation records: it achieved the longest nonstop solo-pilot flight of any kind because the plane did not need to stop for refueling; it also achieved the longest solar-powered flight in distance and duration.
Furthermore, consider Orville Wright’s 1st flight of the “Wright Flyer I” on December 17, 1903: he flew 120 feet in 12 seconds at 6.8 mph and an altitude of approximately 10 feet…and made aviation History! In view of the airplane’s humble beginnings, advancements and current state of the art, imagine the advancements that can and will be made in solar-powered aviation within the next…oh, 10 or 20 years.
The Solar Impulse is the brainchild of Bertrand Piccard, a Swiss psychiatrist and balloonist, and André Borschberg, a Swiss businessman and pilot. Their experimental project is dedicated to technological solutions for efficient, clean energy with no fossil fuels or CO2 emissions.
The Solar Impulse 2’s round-the-world journey began on March 9, 2015 and completed the following segments:
– Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates to Muscat, Oman;
– Muscat, Oman to Ahmedabad, India;
– Ahmedabad, India to Varanasi, India;
– Varanasi, India to Mandalay, Myanmar;
– Mandalay, Myanmar to Chongqing, China;
– Chongqing, China to Nanjing, China;
– Nanjing, China to Nagoya, Japan;
– Nagoya, Japan to Oahu, Hawaii.
The 5 remaining, slated to begin in j2016, are:
– Oahu, Hawaii to Phoenix, Arizona;
– Phoenix, Arizona to a city in the mid-USA;
– City in the mid-USA to JFK airport, New York, NY;
– New York, NY to Europe or North Africa;
– Europe or North Africa to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
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