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If you’re visiting Hawaii this week, you may be witness to an extraordinary aviation event.
The Solar Impulse 2, a plane powered entirely by the sun, finally took-off from Nagoya Airport in Japan on at 8:00 a.m. Hawaii time on June 28th. It is more than halfway in its journey to Hawaii from Japan to Hawaii and is scheduled to land on or around July 2nd on Oahu.
This is the third attempt by the solar plane to make the 4,806-mile trek across the Pacific Ocean. The trip was delayed for several weeks due to weather conditions. In mid-May, the plane took-off, but had to be re-routed back to Japan after it encountered bad weather.
According to the Solar Impulse website, as of Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. Hawaii-time, Andre Borschberg, who is piloting the flight alone, was about two-thirds of the way to Hawaii. The website confirms that he should arrive in Hawaii in about 40 hours from the time of the post, which puts landing at about 1:30 p.m. Thursday, July 2nd.
You can see him live on the company’s website and follow his journey.
The Solar Impulse 2 is attempting the first around-the-world flight without fuel, and the journey from Japan to Hawaii is the longest and most dangerous leg of the 13-leg trip. In fact, on this leg of the trip, the plane will spend 120 hours of flight powered by the sun alone.
Many Hawaii residents plan to watch the plane as it lands in Hawaii, and, at least one environmental group plans to be there when the plane arrives at Kalaeloa Airport in West Oahu.
According to the Star Advertiser, Jeff Mikulina, executive director of Blue Planet Foundation, said his organization plans to greet the Solar Impulse 2 with a lei.
He’s quoted as saying, “”We’ve been eagerly following the journey of the Solar Impulse plane and looking forward to its arrial. We’re planning a welcome ceremony of sorts, complete with a giant lei for the plane.”
Members of the Solar Impulse team arrived in Hawaii Tuesday afternoon to greet Borschberg when the solar plane arrives. The team plans to stay two or three days in Hawaii to attend to aircraft maintenance, a news conference, and public visits.
Claudia Durgnat, the Solar Impulse spokeswoman, says Borschberg is in good health and that the team at the Solar Impulse 2 Mission Control Center in Monaco is always watching the pilot. She adds that, even when Borschberg sleeps, someone at MCC is laways with him. She says he’s never alone, virtually, during the trip.
However, according to the Solar Impulse 2 Facebook page, the last part of the journey is also the most dangerous. The post says, “To quote our Mission Director: “As our engineers said, after 60 hours of flight, the risk of a failure is bigger than the first hours”.
According to the Star Advertiser, as of Tuesday, Borschberg had six of his eight oxygen tanks left, 12 of his 18 food rations, and 17 of 25 liters of water to help him complete the journey. Hawaii will be plane’s the first U.S. destination.
The sun is the only energy source for the aircraft, which has a 72-meter wingspan. It was built with more than 17,000 solar cells, four electric motors, and
lithium batteries, which replaces the need for fuel.