The solar-powered Solar Impulse 2 airplane took off on its historic flight across the Pacific Ocean on Sunday. Swiss pilot André Borschberg will fly five days non-stop from China to Hawaii in the airplane powered by 17,000 solar cells.
NANJING, China – Swiss pilot André Borschberg took off in his Solar Impulse 2 airplane from the Eastern China city of Nanjing at 02:39 a.m. on Sunday (18:39 UTC, Saturday evening) on a record-breaking five-day flight covering 8,175 kilometers across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii on the seventh and longest leg of its round-the-world flight. Borschberg will not use a single drop of fossil fuel on the historic flight in the single-seat airplane weighing just 2,300 kilograms and will instead rely on solar energy collected in its wings that are larger than a Boeing 747 to power its electric motors across the Pacific.
In a spectacular demonstration of the potential for renewable energy, Borschberg (62) will be alone in the tiny unpressurized and unheated cockpit for 120 hours. He will try to take several short naps of about 20 minutes several times each day to be able to stay alert for the ocean crossing. The perilous flight will also be the greatest challenge a solo pilot has ever faced, in an airplane that is powered by entirely from the renewable energy.
The Swiss adventurer will fly to an altitude of 9,000 meters during the day, attempting to stay above any cloud cover to collect as much solar energy as possible, and will descend to 1,500 meters at night – gliding at times with the engines switched off — to conserve energy as the airplane flies towards Hawaii at speeds averaging less than 100 kilometers per hour.
The zero-emission Solar Impulse 2 took off on its 35,000-kilometer journey around the world to promote the use of renewable energy from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates in Mar! ch, with Borschberg and fellow Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard taking turns at the controls of the plane with its 72-meter wingspan. The airplane has so far had stops in Oman, India, Myanmar and China. The longest flight so far was 20 hours. It is expected back in Abu Dhabi in July.