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Solar Impulse 2 Departs from Nanjing, China in 130 Hour Attempt to Cross the Pacific Ocean
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Solar Impulse 2 Departs from Nanjing, China in 130 Hour Attempt to Cross the Pacific Ocean

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Solar Impulse 2, the world’s first solar-powered aircraft to attempt to circumnavigate the globe, departed from Nanjing, China on Saturday at 22:40 Gulf Standard Time on a mission to achieve yet another aviation milestone: an 8,172 km, six consecutive days and nights flight over the Pacific Ocean to reach Hawaii.

For Solar Impulse’s founders Bertrand Piccard, the Initiator and Chairman, along with CEO Andre´ Borschberg, and their 80 technological and institutional partners, including official host partner Masdar, the Pacific crossing will be a testament to the initiative's 12 years of work from inception, to feasibility studies, to the aircraft’s final design and construction.

“The Pacific crossing is Solar Impulses’ most defying milestone in their attempt to circumnavigate the globe since leaving Abu Dhabi two months ago, said HE Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, UAE Minister of State and Chairman of Masdar. “The journey will be a grueling physical and mental challenge for Andre´ Borschberg, for which we wish him a safe and successful flight. This leg of the journey will also test the limits of Solar Impulse 2 and demonstrate the potential of coupling innovative aerospace technology with renewable energy. Together with Solar Impulse, Abu Dhabi and Masdar share a commitment to advancing clean technology and to spreading a message about the importance of innovation and renewable energy in ensuring our sustainable development.”

The Solar Impulse team utilised the stop in Nanjing to prepare the aircraft and pilot Andre´ Borschberg for his daring endeavour.  Borschberg, in the single-seater 3.8m3 unpressurised cockpit, will be exposed to extreme conditions while soaring for up to 130 hours over the world’s largest body of water. The mission will present many human, technical and operational challenges for the pilot, aircraft, and the initiative’s 140 person support team. While the challenges of the experimental adventure have been diligently researched, developed and simulated, Borschberg, a former Swiss Air Force jet pilot, engineer, and the technical visionary behind the project will face his greatest test, one of endurance and alertness. In fact, Borschberg must be as sustainable and resilient as the plane during this 130 hour voyage.

“The leg from Nanjing to Hawaii is the longest leg of the Round-The-World Solar Flight, the first time one pilot will fly so long and is the moment of truth. Questions to be considered will be: Am I able to keep my attention, concentration, will I find the possibilities to rest? The challenge will be to keep the right attitude and mindset and make the optimum choices which will be required to fly the solar airplane six days and six nights across the Pacific Ocean,” said Andre’ Borschberg, CEO and Pilot of Solar Impulse.

The Pacific crossing marks the seventh and most arduous leg of the twelve flight journey.  Borschberg and the aircraft, fitted with four electric motors and 17,248 solar cells spanning the 72 metre wings, will climb to an altitude of 9,000 metres during the day to harness the energy of the sun, recharge the plane’s lithium-ion batteries, and store energy for the night flight. During the night, Borschberg will fly the aircraft at a lower altitude, as low as 1,000 metres. In the cockpit, Borschberg will experience temperatures ranging from 35 degrees Celsius in the morning to minus 20 degrees Celsius while the plane cruises at a high altitude in the early evening. 

Throughout the flight, Borschberg will be in permanent contact via satellite with Solar Impulse’s Mission Control Centre in Monaco, which is comprised of 20 specialists that anticipate every possible flight scenario and transmit information enabling the pilot to follow the optimal flight plan in order to complete a successful mission.

While the round-the-world journey aims to push the boundaries of innovation and clean technology, the Solar Impulse adventure also carries an airborne message to advance environmental stewardship.  Supported by Masdar and UAE Minister of State and Chairman of Masdar HE Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, the #FutureIsClean initiative, launched by Solar Impulse on www.FutureIsClean.org, is designed to rally organisations, individuals, celebrities, and policy-makers to call for concrete actions for a clean future ahead of the Conference on Climate Change of the United Nations (COP21) in December 2015 in Paris.

 “On behalf of the United Arab Emirates and Masdar, I am proud to be a patron of this vital movement – a movement aligned with our nation’s objectives to ensure a sustainable future,” remarked HE Dr Al Jaber. “The daring  round-the world attempt, along with the #FutureIsClean movement, which occur at a time when the global community will soon convene to set new climate objectives and policies for the coming 15 years , illustrate how we can encourage individual, government and intergovernmental actions to attain our collective objectives of achieving sustainable growth," continued HE Dr Al Jaber.

After stopping in Hawaii, Bertrand Piccard will fly Si2 eastward towards Phoenix, reaching the continental United States. The journey will continue with a yet to be determined stop in the Midwest and a landing in New York City at JFK International Airport. After crossing the Atlantic, the plane of perpetual endurance will stop in either Southern Europe or Northern Africa before completing its historic journey in its host city, Abu Dhabi.

The aircraft departed from Abu Dhabi on March 9 for Muscat, Oman and departed the following day for a trek across the Arabian Sea. It arrived in Ahmedabad, India on March 10. Following a brief stop in Varanasi, India, Solar Impulse took off for Mandalay, Myanmar on March 19 with Bertrand Piccard in the cockpit. The plane then completed its fifth and most challenging journey to date, arriving in Chonqing, China on March 30. The aircraft’s departure from Chongqing to Nanjing China was delayed due to unfavourable weather conditions. The Solar Impulse team used the extended stay in Chongqing to inspire thousands of local students and community members, demonstrating how innovation and clean technology harbour the potential to create a more sustainable future. Bertrand Piccard landed Si2 in Nanjing, China on April 21 and the team began technical preparations for the ambitious Pacific crossing.

The flight can be viewed live from:

iFrame SiTV for take-off Nanjing:           https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgNfGLyc898

iFrame SiTV for landing Hawaii:              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHa05MxP1YA

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