Friday, July 3, 2015

Solar Impulse close to Hawaii after breaking non-stop solo flight record

A solar-powered plane on the riskiest leg of a round-the-globe attempt is closing in on Hawaii after a record-breaking flight which has tested its exhausted pilot to the limit in “difficult” conditions. Veteran Swiss aviator Andre Borschberg, who has spent more than four days flying from Japan in the Solar Impulse 2, is expected to land on the Pacific US island state on Friday if all goes well.

“After the longest and most tiring night of this flight, bringing the pilot and aircraft to the limits, Andre is now back under the oceanic sunlight,” mission organisers said.

By 0200 GMT the plane had traveled 91% of the way to Hawaii, having flown 7,471km (4,642 miles) and had a few hundred kilometres to go. Earlier it crossed a cold weather front before Hawaii, which organisers described as “jumping over the wall” before the final stretch towards the Pacific archipelago. 

Before that hurdle organizers had tweeted “@andreborschberg is tired. W/ turbulence at 8’000 feet & a cold front close, SITUATION IS DIFFICULT.” But later came the celebratory tweet, saying the plane had “successfully crossed the second & last front separating him from Hawaii! Everybody clap your hands!”

The pioneering plane is due to land Friday morning local time at Kalaeloa airport on the main Hawaiian island of Oahu. The organizers’ latest estimate for arrival was 1600 GMT, although that could change depending on conditions.

Borschberg earlier clocked up more than 100 hours in the air – suprassing the previous longest solo endurance flight by Steve Fossett, who flew for 76 hours and 45 minutes in 2006. The whole trip from Japan to Hawaii was expected to take 120 hours.