Solar Impulse passes halfway point of Pacific Ocean crossing

Solar Impulse 2 (Si2), the solar-powered aircraft on a round-the-world flight, passed the halfway point of the perilous Pacific Ocean crossing from Japan to Hawaii on Wednesday.

Last Updated: Jul 01, 2015, 14:05 PM IST
Solar Impulse passes halfway point of Pacific Ocean crossing
Solar Impulse/Twitter

Tokyo: Solar Impulse 2 (Si2), the solar-powered aircraft on a round-the-world flight, passed the halfway point of the perilous Pacific Ocean crossing from Japan to Hawaii on Wednesday.

Smashing its own endurance record, the solar plane had travelled 50 percent of the way to the tropical US state by 0300 GMT, having flown 3,887 kilometres with 3,848 kilometres more to go, Solar Impulse tweeted on its official Twitter page.

By that time, the plane and its veteran Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg had logged 56 hours of continuous flight -- easily bettering the previous record of 44 hours they had set between China and Japan.

"Already halfway through what is probably the flight of my life! Loving it!," Borschberg tweeted from the cockpit.

The Japan-Hawaii flight is considered to be the longest and most dangerous of the round-the-world trip.

The eighth leg of the global circumnavigation was expected to take five days and five nights.

Borschberg and Solar Impulse team members have been continuously updating about the status of the Si2 flight on Twitter.

After two failed attempts, the experimental solar-powered aircraft successfully took off from Nagoya, Japan around 1800 GMT Sunday--the early hours of Monday local time—for Hawaii.

Initially, the propeller-driven plane was scheduled to fly directly from Nanjing in China to Hawaii, but bad weather along the way forced a diversion to Japan forcing it to spend a month there.

Travelling alone at an altitudes of more than 9,000 metres, Borschberg uses oxygen tanks to breathe and experiences huge swings in temperature throughout the day and is entirely self-reliant in the 3.8-cubic-metre unpressurised cockpit.

He rests for only 20 minutes at a time and cannot move from his seat, which has a built-in toilet, as well as a parachute and a life raft attached.

Hawaii will be the first destination in the United States for the propeller-driver plane.

It 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.

Solar Impulse 2 set off from Abu Dhabi in March this year in a multi-leg attempt to fly around the world without a single drop of fuel. Since then, it has stopped in Oman, India, Myanmar and Nanjing, China, en route to an unscheduled stop in Japan.

From Hawaii, the Solar Impulse 2 will take-off for Phoenix and is slated to stop in New York before flying over the Atlantic Ocean.

(With AFP inputs)