The Solar Impulse project recently completed a monumental flight from Hawaii to California, as recently reported on GAR. The aircraft has now departed for its next stop in Arizona. Rob Edgcumbe provides an update on the mission with additional images from Hayman Tam.
The Solar Impulse project is a round the world flight in an aircraft that needs nothing but solar power to operate. Using batteries to store power during the day and power the aircraft through the night, the aircraft is only limited in endurance by the pilot. The arrival at Moffett Federal Field in Mountain View CA and the subsequent stay is detailed in a previous GAR piece which you can find at https://www.globalaviationresource.com/v2/2016/04/28/aviation-event-solar-impulse-completes-pacific-crossing/.
GAR was back at Moffett for the departure of Solar Impulse on its next leg. This was a short hop down to Phoenix Arizona, only 16 hours flying time! The pilots alternate the flying so Andre Borschberg was in command for this trip, who had flown the aircraft to Hawaii from Japan in 2015. He had also undertaken some testing flights after the repair work so it was not too long since his last flight. As with the arrival, departure requires calm conditions so it was scheduled for prior to sunrise on 2 May 2016.
The team had been preparing the plane and pilot for some time prior to departure. Andre and Bertrand Piccard, the project’s founder, addressed the gathered guests to thank them for their welcome and to reinforce the messages that Solar Impulse is sharing regarding sustainability and exploration. Then Andre suited up and boarded the flight. His son, who lives in San Francisco, was there to wish him bon voyage. His wife couldn’t attend as she was back in Switzerland where they had just become grandparents!
With Andre aboard and the departure time approaching, the team pushed the aircraft out onto the runway. There they undertook final checks on the systems including running up the engines in turn to verify their performance. When everything was ready and just after 5am, the aircraft spun up all four props and it accelerated rapidly down the runway. Lift off was swift if a little strange to see. No traditional rotation for Solar Impulse. It lifts off the ground in a flat attitude and climbs away in the same manner!
The lights were all that was available to track it. While it got airborne quickly, the cruising speed is low so it then seemed to stop moving at all. Very slowly it became smaller before starting its first turn on course for Phoenix Goodyear. Meanwhile, the ground crew was already disassembling their infrastructure; the inflatable hangar is not needed in Phoenix. It had already been half removed to take the aeroplane out and the remainder was coming down before being put on a truck for the next landing site. Meanwhile, an Ilyushin IL-76 had arrived to take the ground crew and their gear down to Phoenix later in the day to arrive ahead of the Solar Impulse. It was scheduled to land shortly after 9pm.
The next legs are flexible as to where they shall go. Weather is everything for this mission but the routing will definitely include a stop in New York. Before taking off, Andre discussed his hope that he could fly by the Statue of Liberty prior to landing there. You can follow the mission at www.solarimpulse.com as well as on Twitter and Facebook. Keep an eye on their progress and the route they take. The Atlantic crossing is to come and that could end anywhere from Southern England to North Africa!