Solar Impulse pilot fights fatigue close to Hawaii
AFP · 2 Jul 2015, 19:58
Published: 02 Jul 2015 19:58 GMT+02:00
- Solar Impulse passes halfway mark to Hawaii (01 Jul 15)
- Solar Impulse heads to Hawaii as weather clears (28 Jun 15)
- Solar Impulse team faces 'moment of truth' (16 Jun 15)
But they admitted that veteran Swiss pilot André Borschberg is absolutely exhausted after nearly four days' continuous flying, making the final 24 hours or so of flight particularly challenging.
"UPDATE #PACIFIC: @andreborschberg is tired. W/ turbulence at 8'000 feet & a cold front close, SITUATION IS DIFFICULT," said the latest tweeted update from the mission control center (MCC) of the pioneering Solar Impulse 2 aircraft.
"#MCC #solarTEAM is working hard to assess the situation & help @andreborschberg during this stressful period."
The plane is due to land Friday morning local time at Kalaeloa Airport on the main Hawaiian island of Oahu, 30 kilometres west of Honolulu.
By 4.30pm GMT Thursday Solar Impulse 2 had traveled 84 percent of the way to the tropical US state, having flown 6,921 kilometres with 1,250 kilometres more to go, according to the project.
So far, Borschberg has flown more than 94 hours — easily beating the previous longest solo endurance flight, by Steve Fossett who flew for 76 hours and 45 minutes in 2006.
The whole trip from Japan to Hawaii was expected to take 120 hours.
The Swiss aviator is napping for only 20 minutes at a time to maintain control of the pioneering plane.
He is equipped with a parachute and life raft, in case he needs to ditch in the Pacific.
The experimental solar-powered aircraft left Japan around 6pm GMT on Sunday — the early hours of Monday local time — after spending a month in the central city of Nagoya.
The propeller-driven plane was originally scheduled to fly directly from Nanjing in China to Hawaii, but bad weather along the way forced a diversion to Japan that stretched to a month.
Borschberg is alone and entirely self-reliant in the 3.8-cubic-meter (134-cubic-foot) unpressurized cockpit.
Traveling at high altitudes he has to use oxygen tanks to breathe and experiences huge swings in temperature throughout the day.
Solar Impulse 2 set off from Abu Dhabi earlier this year in a multi-leg attempt to fly around the world without a single drop of fuel.
The aircraft has 17,000 solar cells and on-board rechargeable lithium batteries, allowing it to fly through the night.
Its wingspan is longer than that of a jumbo jet but it weighs only 2.3 tonnes — about the same as a car.