So­lar plane sus­pends trip be­cause of bat­tery dam­age


A team try­ing to fly a so­lar­pow­ered plane around the world said Wed­nes­day it is sus­pend­ing the jour­ney in Hawaii af­ter the plane suf­fered bat­tery dam­age dur­ing its record-break­ing flight to the is­lands.

The So­lar Im­pulse team said in a news re­lease that it will con­tinue the at­tempt to cir­cum­vent the globe, but ir­re­versible dam­age caused by over­heat­ing bat­ter­ies has grounded the flight un­til at least April.

The bat­ter­ies aboard So­lar Im­pulse 2 over­heated on the first day of its trip from Ja­pan to Hawaii, and there was no way to cool down the sys­tem, the team said. The com­pany says there was no weak­ness with the tech­nol­ogy, but the team didn’t an­tic­i­pate tem­per­a­ture fluc­tu­a­tions as­so­ci­ated with rapid al­ti­tude changes in a trop­i­cal cli­mate.

Pi­lot An­dre Borschberg and his sin­gle-seat air­craft landed at Kalaeloa, a small air­port out­side Honolulu, on July 3. His voy­age of nearly 118 hours from Nagoya, Ja­pan, broke the record for the world’s long­est non­stop solo flight, his team said.

“So­lar Im­pulse is at­tempt­ing a his­toric first of fly­ing around the world only on so­lar energy,” the pilots said in a state­ment. “And while So­lar Im­pulse has com­pleted eight legs, cov­er­ing nearly half of the jour­ney, set­backs are part of the chal­lenges of a pro­ject which is push­ing tech­no­log­i­cal bound­aries to the lim­its.”

The wings of So­lar Im­pulse 2, which stretch wider than those of a Boe­ing 747, are equipped with 17,000 so­lar cells that power pro­pel­lers and charge bat­ter­ies. The plane ran on stored energy at night.

The air­craft took off in March from Abu Dhabi, the cap­i­tal of the United Arab Emi­rates, then made stops in Oman, Myan­mar and China. It then made an un­planned stop for nearly a month in Ja­pan af­ter high winds dam­aged a wing.

The trans-Pa­cific leg was the riski­est part of the plane’s global trav­els, as there was nowhere for it to land in an emer­gency.

The plane’s ideal flight speed is about 28 mph, though that can dou­ble dur­ing the day when the sun’s rays are strong­est. The car­bon-fiber air­craft weighs more than 5,000 pounds.

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