After Major Setbacks, Solar Impulse Si2 Back in the Air

While weather is the biggest impediment for the progress of the round-the-world flight of the Solar Impulse Si2, the pioneering team has experienced some new challenges that have kept the solar-powered airplane grounded for nearly three weeks.

A big reason for the delay has been low battery levels following the flight from Mandalay, Myanmar, to Chongqing, China. With poor weather in the region and a lack of solar energy to recharge the batteries, the planned pit stop in Chongqing has turned into a much longer than planned stay.

Weather and battery charging challenges aside, cofounder and Si2 pilot André Borschberg, who was scheduled to fly the leg from Chongqing to Nanjing, China, returned to Switzerland to consult his healthcare provider after suffering from unexplained continuous headaches. As a result, Bertrand Piccard, who has flown the past two legs in a row, is now in flight and is expected to land later today in Nanjing.

Piccard experienced turbulence on the climb out from Chongqing and had to climb higher than planned. Once leveled out at 14,000 feet, the air smoothed out and, so far, the flight has progressed smoothly.

The flight leg is expected to last about 14 hours, a short hop in comparison with the next planned leg. The Si2 will continue its journey over the Pacific Ocean with a 4,412 nm flight leg to Hawaii that is projected to take about five days nonstop, a trip that the Solar Impulse team hopes to begin in about 10 days.

Whether Borschberg will be ready to take the controls for the marathon leg remains to be seen.

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Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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