The Swiss solar plane Solar Impulse 2 is now in ‘mission mode’ in anticipation of taking off for North America from Hawaii where it had been grounded since July 2015.
“After replacing overheated batteries and running maintenance flights, the team is now re-entering ‘mission mode’, and as of tomorrow, will identify the first favorable window for Bertrand Piccard to fly toward North America, despite the current difficult weather conditions,” said a Solar Impulse press statement on Thursday.
The plane landed in Hawaii on July 3, 2015 after a record breaking flight of five days and nights (117 hours and 52 minutes) and around 8,900km from Japan. However, the long journey took its toll and the airplane suffered battery damage due to overheating.
It remained grounded at Kalaeloa airport over the winter. Between February and mid-April, 13 test and training flights were undertaken to ensure the newly integrated cooling system for the batteries worked.
The team is looking for a good weather window prior to announcing the exact date and time of departure. Even the next destination has not been finalised. Based on the experience gained last year, a series of options have been considered to ensure a successful flight. Four potential destinations shortlisted include Phoenix, the San Francisco area, Los Angeles and Vancouver. The weather will determine where the plane will eventually land next.
The mission will then continue onward to the Midwest, New York, Europe or North Africa and Abu Dhabi where it all started.