Andre Borschberg will spend five days and five nights in the single-seater Solar Impulse 2, a plane about the same size as a telephone booth. The pilot is making a historic journey to Hawaii — one powered entirely by the sun.
And now, the plane has passed the ominous-sounding “point of no return,” an invisible marker over the Pacific Ocean, after taking off at 3 a.m. from Nagoya, Japan on Monday. The folks who’ve organized the voyage waited until he passed that mark to announce his departure, the Associated Press reported.
“Now fully into the flight to Hawaii,” he tweeted. “Very strong emotions as I passed the point of no return: exploration starts here.”
The journey sounds much more uncomfortable than coach. Andre is strapped into the tiny aircraft, flying through a fair break in rainy weather that delayed the trip for a month, the BBC reported. To get through the grueling experience, Borschberg will take 20-minute cat naps and do yoga and meditation to keep him comfortable for the next week.
This part of the mission is also its most dangerous, since he has no place to land in case of an emergency. So the Impulse is also stocked with a dinghy and supplies in case the pilot has to bail and wait in the middle of the ocean for recovery.
He’s completely reliant on the sun to charge the plane’s batteries.
This is the eighth leg in a historic journey which, if successful, will be the first around the world without fuel and the longest solo flight ever. The purpose of the Solar Impulse 2’s mission is to show the power and efficiency of clean energy.
According to Japan Times, it’s driven by four electric propellers and 17,000 solar cells on its wings and fuselage that keep it powered.
The trip to Hawaii is just part of a larger excursion that began in March, when he took off from Abu Dhabi. At the end of May, he left China for Hawaii, but had to stop in Japan when a cold front moved in. Last Wednesday, he was ready to take to the air again, but weather swooped in to ruin those plans.
After Solar Impulse 2 lands at Kalaeloa Airport near Honolulu, he’ll head to Phoenix and across the U.S., hop over the Atlantic to Europe, and conclude the trip back in Abu Dhabi.
[Photo Courtesy Twitter]