After being grounded for the better part of a year, Solar Impulse 2 (SI2) has successfully taken off from Hawaii and is on its way to California. Bertrand Piccard is in the cockpit for this leg of the record-setting solar-powered flight around the world. The plane is expected to land in Mountain View, California on Saturday, April 23. Piccard and the rest of the crew on the ground are holding out for good weather in order to keep to the schedule.
The single-passenger experimental craft took off Thursday, resuming the round-the-world trip that had been interrupted last July after the batteries suffered damage during the flight from Japan to Hawaii. The previous leg of the journey was piloted by Solar Impulse cofounder and CEO André Borschberg, and the two Swiss clean energy advocates have taken turns piloting the single-man plane since the journey began last spring in Abu Dhabi.
Piccard is well-suited to solo flights, having been around the world before. “During my round the world balloon flight in 1999, the seven days I spent over the Pacific were the most nerve-wracking and thrilling,” said Piccard prior to taking off on this flight. “With Solar Impulse, the flight should last for three days, but this time I am alone in the cockpit, so the intensity is no less important. Every morning you have the suspense of knowing how much energy is left in your batteries. Then, with the sunrise comes the virtuous circle of perpetual flight.”
The purpose of Solar Impulse’s trip around the world using only the power of the sun is to raise awareness and demonstrate the awesome potential of clean energy. Each leg of the flight is an endurance test for the pilot as much as it is for the aircraft, and the team spends between a few days and a few weeks at each layover, hosting and attending events related to renewable energy. Landing in Mountain View is no accident, either in timing or in location, as that city is the home base for a number of tech companies involved in clean energy initiatives, including Google. Apple, the world’s greenest tech company, is headquartered in nearby Cupertino.
Images via Solar Impulse