Due to unforeseen weather conditions after leaving Nanjing, China on its way to Hawaii, solar impulse 2 made an unscheduled landing in Nagoya International Airport, Japan. Taking this golden opportunity, Swiss Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Japan (SCCIJ) organized an luncheon seminar for meeting the crew members and in particular listening to the famed pilot, Mr. André Borschberg.
Markus and Dobie of G&S Japan had the privilege sitting next to the crew members and listened to their experiences and the technical challenges during the past, present and in the foreseeable future. In fact, the challenge is not only about technical, physical and mental, but also the political skill that is required for the plane to fly through many nations and air spaces. Requesting an emergency landing requires tremendous efforts among the base control in Monaco, ground crews, Government and of course the pilot himself. During all the landings in the past, a crew member described to us that it was particularly blessing when landing in John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport during its flight across the US. To accommodate the slow moving airplane to land, JFK airport was closed for other traffics for 30 minutes. For such a busy airport to close for 30 minutes, the help from all levels was greatly appreciated and it also showed that the nation’s openness to this UFO like of landing.
During the luncheon speech, many questions were asked in related to the physical and mental fitness of Mr. André Borschberg being clamshell in a tight cockpit measuring only 3.8 m3 during the flight. One of the great techniques he has in order to maintain physical and mental strength is to practice yoga in an almost sit still position over many days and hours of flying. Practicing yoga enables him to exercise his muscles, internal organs as well as mind. The seat can also be fully reclined to allow him doing physical exercise. Special design in-sit toilet and packaged food from Nestle Switzerland also enable him to conserve energy while taking maximum nutritious from the foods exclusively made for Mr. André Borschberg‘s dietary. Question was also asked about how could he cope with sleeping problem. He explained to the audience that there is a difference between Dog sleep and Bear Sleep. As being a pilot himself, he was trained for not taking a long sleep, but maximum up to a twenty minutes sleep interval. It is because this is the maximum time he would allow the plane to go auto-pilot. The relationship between the plane and Mr. André Borschberg is inseparable. It is the mutual trust that would enable the plane to fly safely.
He emphasized that the solar impulse project is not about using solar power for flying or taking passengers in the near future, at least not yet. The important message is being energy efficiency and with the use of clean energy to make a predictable and sustainable world. There has been constant improvement and innovation on designing the airplane in order to make it consume less energy while improving its efficiency. The saving of energy is with combination of flying strategy with which the solar plane typically climbs to 9000m (29000 ft.) during the day and descents to 1500m (5000 ft.) at night to save energy. The goal is to demonstrate that with collective commitment by all governments and in all levels on driving and improving clean energy technology, solar along with other clean energy have many applications to solve our problems. In fact, the variation of the temperature in the cockpit between night and day could be ranging from minus 15 °C to 30+ °C. However, with the light weight design and high-density thermal insulation, it protects the pilot from the hostile temperate outside of the solar plane in both high and low altitude with extreme temperature in a range of ± 40°C in the absence of heating.
Continue on to the press conference, many questions were asked about the technology used for simulating possible flight paths due to constant changing of weather condition and the next possible take off day for flying to Hawaii. On the technology side, despite modern techniques on weather forecasting, up to four or five days weather forecasting is used for their flight path consideration. All probable flight combinations are simulated by a multidisciplinary team which consists of 80 specialists, 90 partners and about a hundred advisors whose job are to find the right combination of weather pattern in order to allow the solar airplane to fly thought more predictable air spaces. Beyond this time period, the reliability decreases and therefore assessment is usually done in this time interval. It is the excellent risk management that enabling the pilot and the plane to fly safety over tens of thousands of miles so far.
Next possible day will very much depend on the weather condition as they will definitely need to find a chance till the end of August. Currently there is a wall of cloud or formation stretching across the ocean all the way down to Taiwan. When they find a window of opportunity to glide over the formation, this will be the next take off day. When asked about what he would consider the percentage of success or failure amid all those unexpected events, he answered that there would not be any percentage in number but the project be rather a success or a failure since the plane has to land or else per the project’s mission.
Flying over the pacific ocean by solar will be their biggest challenge because of the flying distance to Hawaii and over the ocean. A crew member quoted that it will be a moment of true for their work as the plane flying over pacific ocean will be an extreme test on the design, technology, pilot’s physical and mental fitness.
- Solar Impulse – Connecting the world with a paper plane
- Making impossible to be possible, it is our human’s spirit
- Technical Solutions meet the Challenges
– 17,248 monocrystalline silicon cells with each 135 microns thick
– Airframe made of composite materials [Carbon fibre and honeycomb sandwich]- Upper wing surface covered by a skin consisting of encapsulated solar cells
– 140 carbon-fiber ribs spaced at 50cm for aerodynamic and regidity
– Energy stored in lithium polymer batteries with optimized to 260Wh/kg
– Four brushless, sensorless motors, each generating 17.4hp [13.5kw]
We wish him and the crews all the best and a success.