ALOHA FROM JENNIE: Oahu is privileged to be one of only four U.S. stops for the SolarImpulse2, a Swiss long-range solar powered airplane that is currently flying around the world without a drop of fuel. The aircraft weighs 5,100 pounds, has a wingspan in excess of 200 feet and carries more than 17,000 solar panels which charge during the day in order to power the plane at night.
Pilot Andre Borschberg flew for five days and nights straight, from Nagoya Japan, over the Pacific Ocean, non-stop to Hawaii and landed at Kalaeloa Airfield on West Oahu early Friday morning. Imagine the discipline it takes to sit for that period of time in an unpressurized, unheated single pilot cockpit, sometimes wearing an oxygen mask for the high altitude portions of the flight, typically cruising at 30 to 40 miles per hour.
He and company co-founder Bertrand Piccard are alternating the pilot duties throughout the various legs of the ‘around the world’ journey, with the Japan to Hawaii stage being the most challenging. They started out on March 8th from Abu Dhabi and have already visited Oman, India, Myanmar, China, and Japan prior to arriving in Hawaii. From here, they will move on to the U.S. cities of Phoenix, Chicago and New York City. Pilot Borschberg remarked in local news interviews that he’d like to do some surfing while on the islands.
Kudos to the organizers at Kalaeloa airfield and the University of Hawaii who set up Hanger 111 for a half day educational event which was open to the public. Hundreds of us started lining up an hour prior to the 9 a.m. opening, and were ushered through in small groups to view detailed displays, informative videos, and of course the airplane itself with its wide wings and compact cockpit, gleaming and graceful. The inquisitive audience ranged from scholarly looking geeks to adventurous athletes to awestruck keikis (kids)--it was a lot of fun seeing so many gathered from all different walks of life.
For those of you who won’t get a chance to see the aircraft up close and in person, we hope that you’ll enjoy these photos and video. It’s our sincere hope that the SolarImpulse team achieves all of its goals and dreams, and that we did indeed catch a glimpse of the future today, when this renewable energy technology can evolve to the next frontier of aviation.