Round-the-world solar flight takes off for daring leg across Atlantic
Considered one of the most dangerous legs in a journey that started last year, the non-stop flight from NYC to Seville in Spain will take 90 hours.
Bertrand Piccard, the pilot boldly going where no one has gone before, will take naps during the flight and should arrive on Thursday, assuming the weather (or a Borg ship) don’t give him any nasty surprises.
The Swiss psychiatrist and balloonist has been alternating pilot duties in the single-seat craft with businessman André Borschberg.
After embarking on their journey in March 2015 with a 13-hour flight from Abu Dhabi, UAE to Muscat, Oman, they eventually set a world record last June with their 117-hour trip across the Pacific Ocean from Japan to Hawaii.
Unfortunately, that also fried the plane’s batteries, so the original plan to circumnavigate the globe by last August had to be put on hold.
The team is using their record-breaking journey to “demonstrate that clean technologies can achieve impossible goals,” according to their mission statement, claiming that “everybody could use the plane’s technologies on the ground to halve our world’s energy consumption, save natural resources, and improve our quality of life.”
And in case you were wondering, yes the plane has Wifi, or at least some technology that allows ‘Captain’ Piccard to tweet photos of his transatlantic flight including the favorable weather conditions and his relaxing breakfast.
More than 17,000 solar cells cover the plane and can achieve the slow and steady top speed of 50mph (80kph) when fully exposed to the sun’s rays.
Using “perpetual endurance,” the plane can travel even in the dark of night, although its optimum speed is reduced to around 30mph (48kph)
Solar Impulse 2 has a wingspan of 236ft (72 meters), larger than the 196ft (60m) of a Boeing 747, but carbon-fiber plane weighs just 5,100lb (2,300 kg) compared to the jumbo jet's hefty maximum takeoff weight of up to 970,000 lb (439,985 kg).
The repairs pushed the team into the winter forcing them to delay the continuation of their journey until April this year, when they flew to the US mainland. The craft arrived at JFK airport on June 11 after a five-hour flight from Pennsylvania.
The entire journey around the globe will take the craft on a 21,757 miles (35,000km) journey.