The Solar Impulse has taken off from the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing to Hawaii. At 8,172 kilometres, this is the longest and most dangerous stage of the circumnavigation.
The Swiss sun-powered plane, which is covered with more than 17,000 solar cells, had been grounded in China for around six weeks, waiting for good weather. It eventually took off at 2.45am local time on Sunday.
The Pacific leg, the plane’s seventh, is planned to take six days. It will be the first time a solar-powered plane has travelled so far in one go.
Solar Impulse 2 is being piloted by André Borschberg, who will have to cope with extreme temperatures and hardly any sleep – 20 minutes at a time at the most.
The 62-year-old former Swiss Air Force pilot will use yoga techniques and horizontal exercises in the small cockpit to keep himself fit and awake.
Clean energy project
The Solar Impulse project was launched to build support for clean energy initiatives, especially solar power. Its two stops in China were meant to raise awareness of solar projects in the world’s most populous country.
After its long trip to Hawaii, Solar Impulse will continue across the United States and either southern Europe or northern Africa in several more legs, eventually planning to land back in Abu Dhabi to complete its round-the-world trip later this year.
swissinfo.ch and agencies