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   Vol. 15  No. 46
Wednesday June 15, 2016

Around The World Following The Sun

Around The World

     It felt a bit like the fabled departure of “The Lone Eagle,” when Charles Lindbergh took off in the dark for Paris 89 years ago.

Solar Pilots
Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg (right), Co-founder, CEO and pilot of Solar Impulse, and fellow pilot Bertrand Piccard, Initiator and Chairman of Solar Impulse, celebrate after landing the sun-powered Solar Impulse 2 at JFK International Airport in New York, NY, on June 11, 2016.

     But this was 2016. The Swiss-made Solar Impulse 2 landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Saturday, June 11, at 4 a.m. It had just traveled for 4 hours and 41 minutes on a trip of 165 miles from Lehigh Valley International Airport in Pennsylvania.
     The aircraft reached a milestone last weekend. Its globe-circling voyage began more than a year ago in the United Arab Emirates, but last Saturday The Solar Impulse 2 completed a trip across the United States with a Statue of Liberty fly-by before landing in New York.
     “Si2 is now safe in New York, JFK airport . . . Our new home is Hangar 19 in John F. Kennedy International Airport!" the pilots' logbook read.
     Pilot Andre Borschberg, who flew the plane to New York, and pilot Bertrand Piccard, who will start the next leg of the journey, expect to leave "soon" to cross the Atlantic Ocean for Europe or South Africa. They are quickly on their way to completing an aviation engineering feat that will advance environmentally compatible technology.
     If they fly the northern Atlantic, the route will probably follow Lindbergh’s great circle route trail, hugging the landmasses and jumping from country to country before facing the stretch of the northern ocean until arrival on mainland Europe. The trip will begin early morning, moving very late into the night and the wee small hours of the morning.
     A South American attempt to cross the Atlantic would probably also mimic earlier pioneers of aviation by picking the shortest crossing, perhaps Natal Brazil to Dakar, for example.
     SI2 can store enough power to keep it going all night “but needs sun the next day,” the pilots quip.
     Solar Impulse 2’s wings, which stretch wider than those of a Boeing 747, are equipped with 17,000 solar cells that power propellers and charge batteries. The plane runs on stored energy at night. Ideal flight speed is about 28 mph, although that can double during the day when the sun’s rays are strongest.
     The plane’s schedule is understandably affected by the weather, so with a completely flexible schedule showers and thunderstorms caused it to be grounded.
     The trip began in March 2015 from Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, and made stops in Oman, Myanmar, China, and Japan. The plane had a five-day trip from Japan to Hawaii, where the crew “was forced to stay in Oahu” for nine months after the plane’s battery system sustained heat damage on its trip from Japan.
     Missing from all of this was the suggestion of a commercial (god forbid) air cargo value, which might be developed for these flights as technology advances lift and payload.
     What a thing it would be to receive a bag of mail or some flowers, or any air cargo delivered by solar power—flying low, slow, and cheap, but still faster than ocean.

Solar plane video
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