Solar-powered plane on around-the-world trip to land on Oahu Friday

Solar Impulse 1

When Solar Impulse 2 arrives at southern Oahu’s Kalaeloa Airport on Fri., July 3 around 6 a.m. after a five-day and five-night flight, not a drop of fuel will have been used. The aircraft—powered only by solar power and piloted by a single man—left Japan for Hawaii on Sun., June 28 at 6 p.m. UTC.

The plane is on an around-the-world trip, which began on March 12 following years of research, tests and development. The non-stop journey from Japan to Hawaii is the trip’s eighth leg and represents a record-breaking flight solar flight over the Pacific Ocean. Solar Impulse 2 began its global journey in Abu Dhabi, and has already made scheduled stops along the way in Oman, India, Myanmar, and China. The effort is part of a larger mission by the founder and his team to draw attention to clean energy solutions.

Powered by 17,000 solar cells that cover enormous wings—larger than a jumbo jet—the plane can fly through cloudy conditions for up to 10 hours. In order to stay in the air, however, the solar cells must collect enough sunlight in the daytime to power the aircraft at night.

Co-founders and pilots Bertrand Piccard (left) and André Borschberg (right) in front of Solar Impulse 2. Photo: Solar Impulse.

Since leaving Japan for Hawaii, André Borschberg, the Swiss pilot and co-founder of Solar Impulse who is solo-piloting this leg of the journey, has spent the trans-Pacific flight strapped in a cockpit the size of a telephone booth. There, five cameras monitor his health and spirit. He is allowed 20-minute naps and has been posting photos of himself on Twitter meditating and doing yoga, crediting that they make his journey more comfortable.

Borschberg was originally scheduled to fly from Nanjing, China to Hawaii, but bad weather forced him to make an unplanned stop in Nagoya, Japan on June 1. The delay lasted weeks but photo updates on his Twitter showed him enjoying Japanese cuisine and hospitality, and maintaining a positive attitude for the next window of opportunity to depart for Hawaii.

Solar Impulse’s website tracks the journey, giving up-to-date information and live feeds. Should all run smoothly, Borschberg and his partner Bertrand Piccard will be one step closer to achieving the first solar-powered flight around the world and one step closer to getting their message across for a cleaner future using alternative energy.

Once Borschberg lands in Hawaii, Piccard will take controls to continue the journey to the continental U.S. in Phoenix. From there, the trip is scheduled to make stops in the Midwest, New York, Europe, and back in Abu Dhabi. 

The plane needs to cross the Atlantic Ocean before August, which is when hurricane season reaches its peak.

Categories: Oʻahu