Solar Impulse 2 prepares for record flight across Pacific Ocean

Solar Impulse 2, the solar-powered plane, is making its second attempt at what would be the longest solo flight in history on Monday.

Solar Impulse 2 took off from Nagoya Airfield in Japan at 18:03 GMT on Sunday, en route to Hawaii - a trip expected to last 120 hours before the plane lands.

The team said that the Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg remains determined to circumnavigate the world in a multi-stage flight. “Andre Borschberg has passed the point of no return and must now see this five days, five nights flight through to the end,” Solar Impulse said on its website.

After nearly two months of waiting for the weather to clear to cross the Pacific, following the unplanned landing in Japan due to bad weather during the last leg, the pilot no longer has the option to turn around and return to Japan if the weather changes. If he is successful in his attempt it will be the longest-duration solo flight in aviation history and also the furthest distance flown by a plane powered by the sun.

The Pacific crossing is the eighth leg of Solar Impulse’s journey, but this stage has proven to be the most difficult due to volatile weather conditions. The plane is equipped with full batteries that will recharge – 17,000 solar cells on its wings – and a top speed of about 87mph. Its carbon-fibre build and lithium batteries make it lightweight, being only as heavy as an average car.

Borschberg, co-founder and pilot, will spend the duration of the flight strapped into his seat in a cockpit that is about the same size as a telephone booth. The 62-year-old engineer said he will use yoga and meditation to make his journey more comfortable. The pilot will have to endure altitudes of 28,000ft and temperatures close to 55C in the unpressurized and unheated cockpit.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty at the end, we cannot know everything,” Bertrand Piccard, Borschberg’s project co-founder and occasional co-pilot, said after the team decided to fly. “Today we accepted the decision to go, we accepted that risk and we believe the window is good.”

The plane began its journey from Abu Dhabi in March, stopping in Muscat, Ahmedabad, Varanasi, Mandalay, Chongqing and Nanjing.

If all goes well, the plane will continue its circumnavigation around the world, with Bertrand Piccard taking the controls for the next Pacific crossing from Hawaii to the US mainland. It will then continue across North America, before attempting to fly over the Atlantic.

  1. Leg 1, 9 March: Abu Dhabi (UAE) to Muscat (Oman) - 441km; in 13 hours and 1 minute
  2. Leg 2, 10 March: Muscat (Oman) to Ahmedabad (India) - 1,468km; in 15 hours and 20 minutes
  3. Leg 3, 18 March: Ahmedabad (India) to Varanasi (India) - 1,215km; in 13 hours and 15 minutes
  4. Leg 4, 19 March: Varanasi (India) to Mandalay (Myanmar) - 1,398km; in 13 hours and 29 minutes
  5. Leg 5, 29 March: Mandalay (Myanmar) to Chongqing (China) - 1,459km; in 20 hours and 29 minutes
  6. Leg 6, 21 April: Chongqing (China) to Nanjing China - 1,241km; in 17 hours and 22 minutes
  7. Leg 7, 31 May: Nanjing (China) to Kalaeloa, Hawaii (USA) - 8,200km; journey aborted, plane diverted to Nagoya, Japan
Solar Impulse 2 infographic

Solar Impulse 2  

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