Solar Impulse 2 took off to continue world circumnavigation and breaking records!

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Swiss pioneers and ambassadors for clean technology, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, left the Kakaeloa Airport in Hawaii at 6:15am Hawaiian time to continue their spectacular journey of the first ever solar flight around-the-world. The next days will see the completion of the pioneering adventure as the Solar Impulse 2 (Si2) heads back to its starting point to Abu Dhabi.

After months of repair the Si2 took off on 21 April 2016 at 6:15am Hawaiian time, 6.15pm Swiss time from Kakaeloa Airport in Hawaii and is at this moment heading back towards Abu Dhabi (UAE), where the circumnavigation started on 9th March 2015. This stage will lead the Si2 to the West Coast of the US with an expected duration of approximately 62 hours. Mr. Jakob Burkard, the FAI Official Observer stated: “These upcoming legs from Hawaii to the West Coast and further on will be extremely challenging for both pilots and the aircraft as it will be across the US land mass and over the Atlantic Ocean.” The team identified Moffett Federal Airfield in Mountain View, East of San Francisco (California, USA) as the target. Additionally, four other potential destinations have been set in order to leave maximum flexibility for route planning: Phoenix, San Francisco, Los Angeles or Vancouver. The mission is then planned to continue onward to New York (USA), Europe or North Africa and then its final destination of Abu Dhabi (UAE). Having been appointed as “judge” by the Swiss Aero Club, Mr. Burkard’s main responsibility is to ensure that the FAI rules and the Sporting Code are respected and that the requirements to qualify for the record attempts are fulfilled.

As the project is weather dependent and will need optimal conditions during three to four days in a row, another challenge for the pilots is finding sunlight to power the plane and avoiding clouds. “Not only the pilots need to be mentally and psychologically at their peak, also the meteorologists have to forecast an almost perfect prognosis of the weather conditions. And not to forget the engineers, who have to optimally prepare the aircraft for departure and then it’s management for which they are responsible when and if the flight takes place,” Mr. Burkard continues.

Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg have conducted several successful training and test flights over the last two months. The Si2 has been based at the Hawaiian airport since July 2015 after the aircraft's batteries experienced thermal damage during the flight over the Pacific Ocean, which led to an unforeseen pause. The plane is ready again and with the training flights, Piccard and his co-pilot Borschberg got the feel of the plane back again in order to resume the circumnavigation.

The first half of the endeavour is already an enormous success as solar energy has made it possible to fly five days and five nights crossing an ocean and remaining airborne longer than any jet plane in history. Between March and July 2015 Piccard and Borschberg have flown eight legs without a drop of fuel from the starting point: Abu Dhabi (UAE), Muscat (Oman), Ahmedabad (India), Varanasi (India), Mandalay (Myanmar), Chongqing (China), Nanjing (China), Nagoya (Japan) then over the Pacific Ocean to Kakaeloa, Hawaii (USA), breaking numerous FAI World Records along the way in Duration, Free Distance Along a Course and Straight Distance Free Flight. For live tracking, please visit their website on solarimpulse.com.

We, the World Air Sports Federation, wish both Swiss pioneers and the whole Team behind them Blue Skies and always Happy Landings!

Photo Credit: Solar Impulse

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