Date
24 March 2017
Solar Impulse comes in to land at  Kalaeloa airport in Hawaii after flying non-stop from Nagoya, Japan. The aircraft sustained damage to its batteries during the flight and will be out of action for nine months. Photo: Reuters
Solar Impulse comes in to land at Kalaeloa airport in Hawaii after flying non-stop from Nagoya, Japan. The aircraft sustained damage to its batteries during the flight and will be out of action for nine months. Photo: Reuters

Solar plane laid low by battery damage until April

Battery trouble will cause a nine-month delay in a historic flight by a solar-powered plane more than halfway through its mission.

The craft will be grounded in Hawaii after its solar batteries sustained damage during a record 118-hour flight to Oahu from Japan, according to Reuters.

Solar Impulse, a spindly, single-seat experimental aircraft, is not expected to take off on the next leg of its journey until late April or early May.

The flight to Phoenix, Arizona, will take four days and four nights. 

More time is needed to repair the plane’s four batteries, which store energy from the sun during daylight hours to keep the aircraft powered overnight, allowing it to remain aloft around the clock on extreme long-distance flights.

The batteries became overheated during the aircraft’s initial climb after takeoff on June 29 from Nagoya, Japan, en route to Hawaii on the eighth and most challenging leg of the circumnavigation quest, mission officials said.

The damage is “not a technical failure or weakness in the technology”.

Flight managers miscalculated the temperature increases the plane would experience and the appropriate amount of insulation required for the tropical climate encountered on ascent.

The pilot, Swiss aviator Andre Borschberg, and his team successfully completed the Japan-to-Hawaii leg, safely landing near Honolulu on July 3 after five days and five nights, or 117 hours and 52 minutes, airborne.

The trip shattered the 76-hour world duration record for a nonstop, solo flight set in 2006 by the late American adventurer Steve Fossett in his Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer. 

– Contact us at [email protected]

CG/RA

EJI Weekly Newsletter

Please click here to unsubscribe