The pilots and support crew for the Solar Impulse are back in Hawaii preparing for the continuation of their around-the-world flight, a flight made purely on solar energy. Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard looked refreshed and ready for second half of their trans-Pacific flight. Last year in July, they flew a marathon 118 hours non-stop from Nagoya, Japan to Honolulu. On that trip the batteries were pushed to their operational limits and overheated. As a result the Solar Impulse team had to reassess how they would proceed: re-engineer the battery insulation and risk the delay and changing weather or postpone the mission until 2016. The decision was obvious. Andre Borschberg told me that the batteries themselves were okay, it was the insulation that prevented them from cooling. As a result the team re-engineered the insulation housing in January. The green tubing in the photo is part of the cooling system necessary while on the ground. After landing, if the batteries aren't cooled the batteries run the risk of damage. The weather pattern will determine the next leg of the flight. During their time in Asia, the team learned that having multiple airport options can make or break a flight plan. Recall, Solar Impulse was supposed to fly from Nanjing, China to Honolulu but instead detoured to Nagoya, Japan. As of this writing, there are four possible West Coast options, Vancouver, British Columbia, San Francisco, Los Angeles or Phoenix, Arizona. There will be two stops in the U.S., one in the central U.S. and one in New York. The plane then continues to Europe and ending its around-the-world flight in Abu Dhabi. There will be two public viewings here in Honolulu. One on March 26 and April 2, 2016. Viewing times are from 10am to 4pm. Consult the Solar Impulse website for details. You can find more photos from today's viewing here. The Si2 is parked in the University of Hawaii hanger at Kalaeloa Airport. The planned departure is on April 15, 2016. In the meantime the crew continues with preparations, taking the plane out for test flights. Earlier this week test pilots (not Andre or Bertrand) flew the plane for 16 hours. We're all excited about this next leg of their journey. Hawaii benefits twice for having the Solar Impulse land here and then eight months later begin its journey from here. Solar Impulse and its theme of #FutureisClean brings attention to Hawaii's clean energy goals which are the most aggressive in the country. Very serendipitous!
The historic flight of the Solar Impulse 2 from Nagoya, Japan to Hawaii will be the last flight of 2015. The around the world journey was to continue on from Hawaii to Phoenix, Arizona, but when the team announced that damaged batteries were going to delay the mission, the window to complete the flight around the world quickly closed. Initially it was thought that just a few batteries needed to be replaced. After analysis of the entire system, the team decided to replace all the batteries. With these batteries not being immediately available, the installation would push into August. As the days get shorter, the optimal charging and cooling cycle for the batteries will change. Also the end of summer is the peak hurricane season as numerous storms form in the eastern Pacific. This along with the hospitality shown to the Solar Impulse team by officials in Hawaii resulted in the decision to stay in Hawaii through the winter. The plan is to resume the around the world flight in April or May 2016. The Solar Impulse 2 aircraft will remain in the Univ of Hawaii hangar at Kalaeloa Airport. Work now will involve securing the plane and repairing the systems in preparation for the flight next year. The majority of the crew will return to their families until 2016. Our full interview with Andre Borschberg, CEO and pilot of Solar Impulse and Gregory Blatt, "Pilot on the ground" and Managing Director will air at 5pm (Wed, 7/15/15) during the regularly scheduled time on Hawaii Public Radio. Our guests talk candidly about the mission and the tough decisions made along the way. If you listen to their story, it is hard not to appreciate the complexity of this journey and the fortitude and dedication required by the team to manage through all situations. If you missed it at air time, you can listen (after 5pm) to the podcast here. You can read the press announcement here.
The 60-foot trimaran hydrofoil Hydroptere made the transPacific crossing from Los Angeles, leaving on June 22, 2015 with the intent to break the transPacific speed record. Their ulterior motive was to meet up with the arrival of the solar powered plane, Solar Impulse. Designed to catch the wind and skim over the water, Hydroptere reached record speeds of more that 60mph. Kewalo Basin Harbor where I was able to snapped these photos and periscoped this walk around. It's great to see these two high tech marvels at the same time in Honolulu.
Just minutes after landing Solar Impulse 2 at Kalaeloa Airport this morning, pilots Andre Borschberg and Bertand Piccard gave this first English language interview to reporters. The plane made a flawless landing after being in the air for just under 118 hours in a non-stop flight from Nagoya, Japan. Using nothing but solar power, Solar Impulse broke the world records of distance and duration for solar aviation, as well as the world record for the longest solo flight ever.