Solar plane resumes its first around-the-world flight

Solar-powered plane which has been grounded in Hawaii since July after making record-breaking five-day nonstop flight across the Pacific resumes its around-the-world journey

Photo by: Reuters (Archive)
Photo by: Reuters (Archive)

Ground staff prepare to push the "Solar Impulse 2," a solar powered plane, into a hangar after it landed at the airport in Ahmedabad March 11, 2015.

A solar-powered plane attempting to circumnavigate the globe resumed its record-breaking journey on Thursday taking off from an airport in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The aircraft, called the Solar Impulse 2, was grounded on the island of Oahu, Hawaii since July as a result of battery damage caused during the plane's record almost 118-hour trans-Pacific flight from Japan to Hawaii last July.

The Solar Impulse 2's batteries store energy from the sun during daylight hours to keep the aircraft powered overnight, allowing it to remain aloft around the clock on extreme long-distance flights.

The batteries became overheated during the plane's initial ascent after takeoff in June 2015 from Nagoya, Japan, en route to Hawaii on the seventh and most challenging leg of its circumnavigation attempt.

The team, however, in July stressed that the damage was "not a technical failure or weakness in the technology." Instead, the team said it had miscalculated the extent of the temperature increases and amount of insulation that would be needed for the tropical climate they encountered on the ascent from Nagoya.

Still, flight controllers and the pilot managed to successfully complete the Japan-to-Hawaii leg, safely landing in Honolulu on July 3 after five days and five night, or 117 hours and 52 minutes aloft.

The trip shattered the 76-hour record for a nonstop solo flight set in 2006 by the late American adventurer Steve Fossett in the Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer.

The Solar Impulse 2 is the first aircraft to fly day and night without any fuel.

Pilot Andre Borschberg navigates alone in an unheated and un-pressurized cockpit, sleeping in bursts of 20 minutes while on autopilot.