Solar Impulse 2 returned to the sky Feb. 26, completing a 1.5-hour test flight from Kalaeloa (John Rodgers Field) Airport in Hawaii with test pilot Markus Scherdel at the controls. The aircraft had been grounded since arriving in July after a grueling Pacific Ocean crossing with overheated batteries. Technical issues forced a months-long delay to the journey around the world promoting renewable energy.
The University of Hawaii has hosted the gossamer, single-seat aircraft with the wingspan of a jumbo jet while repairs and upgrades were made. The team announced in December that it had secured an additional $20 million in funding to complete the $170 million project and flight.
The team posted a report on Scherdel’s test flight soon after the Feb. 26 sortie, the first in a series of test flights that will confirm that the airplane is ready for the next leg of its journey to the U.S. mainland in April.
“During the hour and a half that it lasted, the team based at the Mission Control Center performed maintenance checks to verify that the technology installed in the aircraft runs smoothly,” the team reported. “The stabilisation and cooling system were a part of these checks and both performed superbly. Si2 flew up to 8,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean and then returned to the Kalaeloa base.”
Co-founder and pilot André Borschberg was in Hawaii for the mission, and fellow founder Bertrand Piccard monitored from afar, expressing relief that the mission went smoothly after months of uncertainty. The two pilots have been alternating legs on the circumnavigation, taking every opportunity to promote renewable energy.