Last night, Solar Impulse 2 completed the Pacific Ocean crossing leg of its round-the-world flight. According to the Solar Impulse organization, the aircraft with founder and chairman Bertrand Piccard at the controls touched down in a night landing at Moffett Airfield in Mountain View, California on April 23 at 11:44 pm PDT after a flight time of 62 hours and 29 minutes from Kalaeloa Airport, Hawaii.
Taking off from Kalaeloa on April 21 at 6:15 am HST, the one-man, solar-powered airplane reached a maximum altitude of 28,000 ft (8,634 m) and an average speed of 40.4 mph (65.4 km/h) as it covered a distance of 2,810 mi (4,523 km). During the day, power to the electric motors was provided by the solar panels on the upper wing surfaces while special batteries kept it aloft at night.
According to Solar Impulse, Solar Impulse 2 set several records during the Pacific flight, including distance, speed, duration, altitude, and altitude gain for an electric airplane. These records are still pending US FAA confirmation.
Piccard at the controls of Solar Impulse 2 in Hawaii
During the flight, on April 22, Piccard addressed the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and 175 heads of states in New York via a cockpit video link as part of the signing of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
Yesterday's landing finished the ninth leg of the Solar Impulse 2 circumnavigation. The next destination is New York, followed by Europe or North Africa, with the voyage ending at its starting point in Abu Dhabi, where Solar Impulse 2 took off in March 2015.
Solar Impulse 2 was stranded in Hawaii due to damage sustained by the power system during the record five-day flight from Japan to Oahu. Due to over-insulation, the batteries that sustain Solar Impulse 2 during the hours of darkness overheated. After landing, ground crews discovered that the batteries had been extensively damaged and the weeks required for repairs meant that the daylight/weather window for the next leg was missed, requiring the delay.
"Solar Impulse showcases that today exploration is no longer about conquering new territories, because even the moon has already been conquered, but about exploring new ways to have a better quality of life on Earth," says Piccard. "It is more than an airplane: it is a concentration of clean technologies, a genuine flying laboratory, and illustrates that solutions exist today to meet the major challenges facing our society."