So­lar Im­pulse to be stuck for a week in Ja­pan for re­pairs

The China Post - - GUIDE POST -

So­lar Im­pulse 2 will be stuck in Ja­pan for at least a week, its pi­lot has said, af­ter sus­tain­ing dam­age to its del­i­cate wing while on the ground.

The plane was en route from China to Hawaii, in the most am­bi­tious leg of a record-break­ing at­tempt to cir­cum­nav­i­gate the globe us­ing only the power of the sun.

But mission con­trollers or­dered it to di­vert to Nagoya on Mon­day, be­cause a bur­geon­ing cold front over the Pa­cific was block­ing its path to the U.S. is­lands.

Gusts of wind have since dam­aged the left aileron — the mov­ing hinge on the trail­ing edge of the wing that con­trols the plane’s roll.

“It will take about one week for us to re­pair this small dam­age,” pi­lot An­dre Borschberg told re­porters in Nagoya late Wed­nes­day.

“It will take a week in fact to bring some ma­te­ri­als from Switzer­land and to make the re­pair, then we should be ready in fact to con­tinue and hope­fully to reach Hawaii,” he said.

In footage posted on the project’s web­site, mission ini­tia­tor Ber­trand Pic­card said ex­po­sure to the ments had been the prob­lem.

“Be­fore the team at Nagoya air­port could in­flate the mo­bile han­gar, the wing had to be pro­tected with a cover for the rain and the sun,” he said.

“There were so much wind and gusts that this cover started to shake on the wing and dam­aged an aileron on the trail­ing edge of the wing.

“This of course will be re­paired, the tech­ni­cal team al­ready started to build some spare parts but it will keep us on the ground for at least one week be­fore we can carry on and An­dri to fly to Hawaii.”

Borschberg said Wed­nes­day the team would be watch­ing the weather, with Ja­pan’s month-long rainy sea­son al­ready un­der way in the south of the coun­try, and ex­pected to ad­vance north­wards over the com­ing days.

“In be­tween (rainy days) there will be also sunny spots,” he told AFP, adding the team will choose a break in the weather to leave and may fly fur­ther north to reach Hawaii.

The fuel-free air­craft can be more flex­i­ble than a con­ven­tional plane as long as it gets sun­light, he said.

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“The chal­lenge and the goal is to get sun ev­ery morn­ing,” he said.

‘Right mind­set’

Once the team gives the green light for Borschberg to fly out of Nagoya, he will set his course for Hawaii, a jour­ney that is ex­pected to take five days.

If suc­cess­ful, that will smash the 44-hour con­tin­u­ous flight record for such a plane he set from Nan­jing, China.

The 62-year-old Swiss said he prac­tices yoga dur­ing his long solo stretches in the cock­pit and tries to main­tain the “right mind­set.”

“I train spe­cial pos­tures, which I do ev­ery day in the cock­pit ... to keep the right men­tal at­ti­tude,” he told AFP.

“Breath­ing can help much about breath­ing.”

But he ad­mit­ted that be­ing cooped up in the 3.8 cu­bic me­ter (130 cu­bic foot) cock­pit for long stretches of time was a chal­lenge.

He said he would “sleep 20 min­utes at a time, nor­mally at night of course over the ocean. But it’s not suf­fi­cient.

“And to eat we have spe­cial food we can keep in tem­per­a­tures in the cock­pit vary­ing from mi­nus 20 de­grees Cel­sius (-4 Fahren­heit) when we are very high to plus 30 when we are very low.

“And of course (the) toi­let which is in­te­grated to the seat which I used suc­cess­fully (for) two days.

“It’s like a home, you build a home and the goal is re­ally to feel at home to be able men­tally to ac­cept and like ... this cock­pit.”

Af­ter Hawaii, So­lar Im­pulse, a bid to raise aware­ness of the pos­si­bil­i­ties of re­new­able en­ergy, is sched­uled to head to­wards the U.S. main­land be­fore cross­ing the At­lantic on its way back to its Abu Dhabi start­ing point.

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AFP

A ground crew mem­ber checks the so­lar-pow­ered air­plane So­lar Im­pulse 2 at a mo­bile hanger at Nagoya air­port in Nagoya, Ja­pan on Wed­nes­day, June 3.

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