Hawaii to be 1st US stop for solar round-the-world journey
HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii will be the first destination in the United States for a Swiss-made solar-powered aircraft attempting to fly around the world.
The historic journey is set to begin next week in Abu Dhabi, after being pushed back because of sandstorms. The lightweight Solar Impulse 2 is aiming to become the first plane ever to circumnavigate the globe using only the power of the sun to drive its four propellers.
Project founders and pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg plan to start and finish their round-the-world bid from Abu Dhabi, the oil-rich capital of the United Arab Emirates, over the course of about five months.
The most challenging leg of the trip will be a five-day flight from China to Hawaii, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser (http://ow.ly/JARU9 ) reported. If all goes well, the solar plane should touch down on West Oahu’s Kalaeloa Airport on April 20.
“The crossing of the Pacific is an enormous challenge in both technical and human terms,” Solar Impulse 2 said in a statement.
The lightweight, 5,000-pound aircraft is more vulnerable to turbulence and weather, said Peter Forman, an aviation historian based in Hawaii.
“To build an airplane that is this light and this big, it must be built with just the very lightest materials,” he said. “It is not a very strong airplane.”
During the day when the solar panels are generating power, the plane will climb to more than 27,000 feet. At night it will run on batter power and gradually drop to below 5,000 feet.
There is only one seat in the plane, so layovers will give the pilots a chance to swap places and engage with local communities along the way.
The team will stay several days in Hawaii for aircraft maintenance, a news conference and public visits.
The aircraft will then fly to Phoenix, followed by a stop in the Midwest and then a landing in New York.
The cockpit is 4 feet wide by 6 ½ feet long, and the pilot’s seat doubles as a toilet.
Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com