SI2 On the Move Again!
Solar Impulse 2 – Is Crossing the United States!
Photography by, and co-authored with Bob Shane
After an almost 10 month delay, Solar Impulse 2 (SI2) has begun its journey around the world again. While almost half way through their 15-stop round-the-world solar-powered tour in 2015, a glitch forced repairs to be made and its critical weather window lost while on the ground at Hawaii’s Kalaeloa airport on Oahu.
The problem occurred during pilot André Borschberg’s record-shattering 117 hour, 52 minute flight from Nagoya, Japan to the former Barber’s Point Naval Air Station. After arriving in Hawaii on July 3, 2015, it was found that batteries, a critical part of the solar-powered aircraft’s design, overheated due to being over-insulated against extreme cold found during flights at high altitudes. Replacement parts had to be built, shipped, installed, and tested, which cost the SI2 team enough time that the next possible departure was outside of a carefully planned window of optimal weather and solar conditions.
Departing Kalaeloa, Hawaii on April 21, 2016, pilot Bertrand Piccard flew 62 hours and 29 minutes to arrive at its second U.S. destination of Moffett Field at Mountain View, California.
After California, it was on to Phoenix Arizona’s Goodyear Field, which sits in familiar territory for both of SI2’s pilots. They flew their forerunner (the Solar Impulse 1) solar-powered airplane into and out of nearby Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, while testing the solar-powered flight concept across the U.S. in 2013. Andre Borschberg flew the SI2 for slightly under 16 hours between Moffett Field and Goodyear, landing close to 9PM local time in Arizona.
The ground support team for SI2 travels in a pair of jets across the USA. A leased Ilyushin IL-76TD-90VD cargo transport, carries the team’s gear between the SI2’s departure and arrival airports. With a top speed under 100 miles per hour, the SI2 easily affords the IL-76 transport team enough time so it can collect equipment used on the ground for the solar plane’s maintenance, storage, and departure, fly to the next stop, and allow for the redeployment of the ground equipment. The SI2 aircraft is housed in a custom-built inflatable hangar with a metal skeleton, with more than enough room for maintenance, organizational and promotional gatherings and group media briefings.
A Fairchild Dornier 328-310 jet, once a regional airliner operated in the eastern U.S., shuttles personnel between airports. Bob Shane shows us some of the Goodyear flight operations and support jet activity in these photos.
With a high-tech team of specialists and machinery intricately planning every step of the way, it was rather startling that after arriving at Goodyear, the next two destinations were unknown for a few days, until future weather puzzles over the Rockies and the Midwestern U.S. were solved. Tulsa, Oklahoma became the next destination, but after that, no information was offered, although New York City’s JFK International Airport was almost a definite destination after that one more unknown between Tulsa and the East Coast.
Keep checking here to see the progress of this around-the-world flight, as we track the SI2’s record breaking advancements in clean technologies in aviation.