Solar Impulse in ‘mission mode’ ahead of resuming round-the-world attempt

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Solar Impulse 2 on one of 13 maintenance flights conducted since the plane was grounded in Hawaii. Image: Solar Impulse.

Solar Impulse 2, the “zero fuel airplane” which began a round-the-world attempt last year, is set to resume flying from the Hawaii base where it has been grounded since last July.

Maintenance and training flights have been completed and on Thursday the team’s experts including air traffic controllers, meteorologists and mission engineers were looking to find a suitable “weather window” to allow the plane to take off on its journey from Hawaii to North America. The Hawaii-to-North American leg of the flight could land in Phoenix in Arizona, around San Francisco or Los Angeles or in the Vancouver area, with the team currently weighing up its options for the optimal route.

The plane was forced to cut its journey around the globe short half-way through after a five-day continuous stint in the air, when its batteries began to overheat. The plane was travelling from Nagoya, Japan, to Hawaii when the batteries suffered irreversible damage.

The team continues to wait for the right weather conditions and will make a decision on route a couple of days before flying. A statement said it had learned from its experiences in 2015 to allow itself a more flexible approach to route-planning. From its North American destination, the flight will go to one of either New York, Abu Dhabi or a destination in Europe or North Africa.

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