Solar-powered plane starts second attempt at historic 120 hour flight

A solar-powered plane, which is attempting to fly around the world, has taken off on its second attempt at a flight that will last for five days and five nights.

Solar Impulse 2 was grounded for more than a month in Japan after a previous attempt at the longest ever solar flight failed due to poor weather. However, it was still in the air for more than 43 hours.

The single seater aircraft took off from Nagoya, Japan, at 3:03am local time and is scheduled to land in Hawaii in five days time.

“The real moment of truth still lies ahead,” said pilot André Borschberg.

“We are now at the point in the Round-the-World Solar Flight where everything comes together, the engineers who worked on the airplane for the last 12 years, the Mission Control Center who will have to predict weather and guide the airplane through good conditions”

The previous attempt saw the plane having to make an unplanned landing in Japan at the beginning of June, after it had started an attempt at the trip to Hawaii from China.

The attempt had to be aborted when adverse weather meant it would be dangerous to fly the lightweight plane any further. The landing in Japan limited the possible routes that the plane could take to get to Hawaii, and favourable weather will once again be crucial to the success of the flight.

The flight to American soil is the eighth leg of the round-the-world flight, which is being attempted by two pilots in the completely solar-powered plane.

If successful, the flight will take 120 hours to complete and during this time the plane will fly more than 7,000km. The oceanic flight will become the longest ever flight completed by a solar plane and the longest flight of the 12 legs the plane will complete.

Solar Impulse two started the round-the-world trip in March this year when it took off from Abu Dhabi. Subsequent legs have seen the plane fly east and pass through India and China.

Upon arriving in Hawaii, the plane will make further trips across the United States before passing across Europe and completing the trip by touching down in Abu Dhabi.

Images courtesy of Solar Impulse / Revillard

The creators of the project see the plane as an opportunity to showcase the potential of solar energy as well as pushing the limits of flight to new levels.

“An airplane flying day and night without fuel is more than a spectacular milestone in aviation, it’s the living proof that clean technologies and renewable energies can achieve incredible feats; and that all these energy efficient technologies should now be used globally in order to have a cleaner world,” said the plane’s other pilot, Bertrand Piccard.

“Solar Impulse is the result of years of innovation from our partners and the hard work of our engineering team led by André.”

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