Solar Plane Trip Was a Test of Endurance


Flying a solar-powered airplane around the world was a test of endurance according to two Swiss pilots. One of them is Bertrand Piccard, who just completed his three-day journey across the Pacific Ocean on April 23. Apparently, Piccard only slept for 20 minutes inside the plane’s small cockpit, which did not have heat or air conditioning.

However, to remain calm and alert, Piccard employed his self-hypnosis. He also placed heating pads inside his shoes and gloves to keep him warm. “You have interviews, navigation control, and communications with the control centre in Monaco. You have health checks, a lot of health checks,” says Piccard. “It’s very active, there are a lot of things to do, but you can nevertheless enjoy it.”

The Solar Impulse 2 lifted off at the Kalaeloa Airport on April 21 in Kapolei, Hawaii. On the evening of April 23, Piccard landed the solar plane in Mountain View, Silicon Valley which is south of San Francisco.


Solar Impulse 2 at the Payerne Air Base. Credit: Wikimedia/Milko Vuille

Piccard and co-pilot Andre Borschberg have been taking turns flying the plane since departing from Abu Dhabi last March 2015. They made stops in Japan, China, Oman, Myanmar, and Hawaii. Due to the lack of emergency landing sites, the trans-Pacific is considered as the most dangerous journey so far. Nevertheless, Borschberg insists that the plane can fly for a long period without the need of any landing sites.

Like Piccard, Borschberg also has his own set of techniques to keep his energy up during a five-day trip from Japan to Hawaii. He used meditation and did some yoga positions. The plane will take off again this week. Borschberg says that it may land in Phoenix if the weather permits.

The Solar Impulse 2 airplane reaches up to 28 miles per hour or 45 kilometres per hour. It is made of carbon-fibre and weighs over 2,267 kilogrammes. Its wings are wider than Boeing 747 and furnished with 17,000 solar cells, which charge the batteries and power the plane’s propellers. The plane stores energy, enabling it to fly at night.

The $100 million dollar project (AU$129 million) started in 2002. This may seem too costly but this can transform the future of air travelling for the better.


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