Solar Plane Diverts to Japan En Route to Hawaii
“Au revoir, Andre, our hearts, our soul, our love are with you… be safe, drive carefully, we’ll see you on the other side.”
And with that, Swiss pilot André Borschberg — co-founder and CEO of Solar Impulse — left terra firma in Nanjing, China yesterday, beginning what was to be an unprecedented flight to Hawaii. He planned to cross 5,077 miles of open ocean, taking an estimated 130 hours, to prove what can be done without fossil fuels.
Unfortunately, the Solar Impulse team announced tonight that the flight would be diverted to Nagoya, Japan due to deteriorating weather.
“This diversion is between elation and disappointment,” tweeted Solar Impulse founder Bertrand Piccard. “Everything we could do has been done. The weather we cannot control. This is what exploration is about.”
The plane is as wide as a jumbo jet, but no heavier than a car, powered by nothing more than rays of light from the sun (with energy stored in a complex array of batteries to stay aloft at night). This around-the-world journey is the culmination of an idea sparked sixteen years ago by Picard, the first person to complete a non-stop balloon flight around the globe.
“This is the moment of truth,” Borschberg said earlier a statement. “If successful, this flight to Hawaii will demonstrate the credibility of the vision Bertrand had 16 years ago of an airplane flying for days without fuel to change our mindset regarding the enormous potential of clean technologies and renewable energies.”
This latest takeoff was several weeks in the making. The international team was waiting for a suitable weather window since landing at Nanjing on April 21 (when I first blogged about the journey, they were looking at May 11).
The launch was streamed live, the two-hour broadcast now available on YouTube (the link below jumps ahead to the takeoff):
This seventh leg was going to be the longest flight in duration for a single pilot ever flown with any type of airplane, described as “the ultimate test of endurance for both the pilot and the plane.” Should Solar Impulse continue on to Hawaii from Japan, the trip will undoubtedly still be a challenging one.
The Solar Impulse team had previously set up a livestream link five days in advance of the scheduled Hawaii landing. It has since been updated to broadcast the Solar Impulse arrival in Japan, instead.