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Human Challenges of 1st RTW Flight by Solar Impulse (Videos)

“A great historic first: for such an adventure, as for any premiere, there are no references. We were, and will be, faced with a number of challenges, leading us to push the limits of technological, human and piloting performance,” the Solar Impulse 2 (Si2) team writes.

Crossing the Pacific and Atlantic oceans introduces a new kind of difficulty for Si2 pilots and co-founders, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg. The long flights — up to 5 or 6 days and nights in a row — in an unheated and unpressurized cockpit are a challenge of endurance and vigilance, according to the Si2 team.

Solar Impulse 2 airplane logistics challenges aren’t restricted to piloting the solar aircraft. There are many preparations to be made on the ground to include the arrival and departure at different locations and duration of stops, as well as the use of the inflatable hanger exclusively designed by Solar Impulse for the Si2 RTW project. This video above from Solar Impulse gives us a peek into the team’s daily work!

Data: Human Challenges

The #RTW Solar Flight will represent approx. a 35,000 km, or 22,000 miles, journey. Although achieved in several legs, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg will accumulate around 500 flight hours in the tiny Solar Impulse 2 cockpit. Discover the experience by the numbers:

  • 500 hours total flight time
  • 3.8 m3 cockpit — 3.8 cubic meters or 134.20 cubic feet
  • up to 5 or 6 days and nights in a row in the single seater cockpit
  • -40°C to +40°C, -40°F to +104° F weather conditions
  • Ø pressurization system
  • 6 oxygen bottles onboard
  • 1 parachute
  • 1 life raft
  • food and water for a week

“What is really special, is that it is the first and only airplane in the world which has unlimited endurance. We have an airplane which is fully sustainable in terms of energy, and our challenge now is to make the pilot sustainable as well,” said André Borschberg.

The video above follows the unloading of Solar Impulse 2 from the B747 that flew the solar airplane from Switzerland in the video above.

Living Up In The Sky, For Days

The pilot will be living in the 3.8 m3 — 3.8 cubic meters or 134.20 cubic feet — cockpit for 5 or 6 days and nights in a row during the longest flights over the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

The cockpit volume provides enough space on board for oxygen supplies, food, and survival equipment, while also meeting the optimal ergonomic requirements for these flights.

Solar Impulse diagram

Multi-Purpose Seat

A multi-purpose seat functions both as reclining berth and toilet.

A parachute and a life-raft are packed into the seat-back. When fully reclined, it allows the pilot to perform physical exercises. It allows more legroom, has an ergonomic inflatable cushion, and has been developed for minimum weight.

Extreme Temperatures

In the absence of any heating, the cockpit and the pilot will be facing extreme temperatures: from +40°C à -40°C, -40°F to +104° F!

Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg are protected against the ambient cold or heat by high-density thermal insulation in the cockpit structure.

All images via Solar Impulse

This is an adventure and a symbol of sustainability that you can be part of!


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Written By

-- I am an artist, painter, writer, interior designer, graphic designer, and constant student of many studies. Living with respect for the environment close at hand, the food chain, natural remedies for healing the earth, people and animals is a life-long expression and commitment. As half of a home-building team, I helped design and build harmonious, sustainable and net-zero homes that incorporate clean air systems, passive and active solar energy as well as rainwater collection systems. Private aviation stirs a special appeal, I would love to fly in the solar airplane and install a wind turbine in my yard. I am a peace-loving, courageous soul, and I am passionate about contributing to the clean energy revolution. I formerly designed and managed a clean energy website, 1Sun4All.com.

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