Solar Impulse 2 Breaks World Records for Days-Long Nonstop Flights
Can you imagine flying nonstop worldwide for five days straight? Well, that’s just what Andre Borscheberg did in the summer of 2015. He took off from Hawaii at 5:55 a.m. Kalaelola’s local time on June 28th and it ended on July 3rd, 2015. The plane that he flew was a Solar Impulse 2.
The Solar Impulse 2 has the same weight of the average car, just over 2,000 kilograms. Its wingspan is about 72 meters, which is lighter than that of most Boeing planes. The plane charges as it flies during the day and never needs to be fueled. The wings contain about 7,000 solar cells and power four engines, which contain about 17.4 horsepower. The fact that it charges during the day also allows for it to fly at night without the worry of it running out of energy in the process. The plane also has an autopilot mode so that the pilot can nap for about 20-minute stretches at a time.
The Solar Impulse 2 does currently have some major disadvantages. One is that it has been found to be rather difficult to land. It needs very specific weather conditions to do so properly. As a result, there were a lot of concerns that Borscheberg would have to circle Hawaii several times over before he would be able to officially end his five-day global flight. The cockpit is only about 135 cubic feet and it can’t be walked around in or stood in. The cabin is insulated but is currently neither heated nor pressurized. So there is still much improvement to be made before these planes can hope to used for commercial flights.
The previous record set with a Solar Impulse 2 was that with Steve Fossett in 2006. It was a 76-hour nonstop flight.