Solar Impulse finally leaves Hawaii to complete Pacific crossing

Earlier this week we talked a bit about the Solar Impulse solar-powered aircraft that had been grounded in Hawaii for an extended period of time. A severe overheating in the battery packs that store the solar energy led to damage requiring those batteries to be replaced. Earlier this week we had learned that test flights had been conducted and the aircraft was waiting for the ideal window to take off. That launch happened yesterday when the Solar Impulse left Kalaeloa, Hawaii.

The aircraft lifted off at 6:15 am Hawaii time to try to complete the crossing of the Pacific with pilot Bertrand Piccard at the controls. Famous aviator Amelia Earhart took the same flight but rather than needing 500 gallons of fuel as Earhart did for her flight, the Solar Impulse needs only batteries and sunlight.

Across the main wing, fuselage, and horizontal stabilizer of the aircraft are 17,248 solar cells with four lithium batteries storing the power to turn the four electric motors and propellers. Solar Impulse is expected to land at Moffett Airfield in Mountain View, California on April 23. The flight is expected to take three days depending on weather.

"During my round the world balloon flight in 1999, the seven days I spent over the Pacific were the most nerve-wrecking and thrilling," said Bertrand Piccard, Initiator and Chairman of Solar Impulse, currently at the controls of the solar airplane. "With Solar Impulse the flight should last for three days, but this time I am alone in the cockpit, so the intensity is no less important. Every morning you have the suspense of knowing how much energy is left in your batteries. Then, with the sunrise comes the virtuous circle of perpetual flight."