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Solar plane to cross Pacific over 5 days

54A pilot said Sunday that he is anxious but excited about flying a solar plane solo from China to

Hawaii on the longest leg of the first attempt to fly around the world without a drop of fuel.  André

Borschberg, 62, is due to fly over the Pacific Ocean for five days and five nights in the plane that has

more than 17,000 solar cells on its wings to power its motors and recharge its batteries for nighttime

flying. The Solar Impulse 2 set off from Abu Dhabi in March and has stopped in Oman, India and

Myanmar. Borschberg and another Swiss pilot, Bertrand Piccard, are taking turns flying the single-

seater Swiss plane during a five-month journey to promote renewable energy use.  The 8,175-

kilometer (5,079-mile) flight from Nanjing in eastern China to Hawaii — which may take off

Thursday, depending on weather — is the seventh of 12 flights. None of the previous legs were more

than 20 hours — compared with an estimated flight time of 120 hours to Hawaii.

“It’s the most challenging, yes, in the sense that we never flew over the oceans,” Borschberg said in

a phone interview from Nanjing.

“There are of course also question marks with the type of airplane we have, is it capable to fly solo

with this type of energy, and of course the challenge is on the pilot side as well … can I stay alert for

this leg and be able to pilot this airplane, can I keep my energy at the right level, can I keep my

spirits, my mindset to get this airplane to Hawaii.”

The aircraft will climb to the altitude of Mount Everest, almost 9,000 meters (29,500 feet), during

the day to get more sunlight, recharge the batteries and store more energy. At nighttime, the plane

will fly lower, at a minimum of 1,000 meters (3,000 feet). The pilot will experience temperatures

ranging from 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) in the morning to minus 20 degrees Celsius

(minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit) early in the evening while the plane is still high up. “It’s winter and

summer every day in the cockpit,” said Borschberg, who flew military jets for 25 years as a reserve

pilot in the Swiss army and is an entrepreneur by profession.

He plans to take periods of rest of 20 minutes up to eight times a day, but said he doesn’t know if

the weather or turbulence will let him. Borschberg said the plane has a “virtual co-pilot” that is a

stabilization tool. It will sound an alarm to wake him if the aircraft does something unplanned.  The

cockpit is too small to stand in, although the seat can recline into a horizontal position to allow him

to lie down and practice yoga. He also plans to use breathing techniques and meditation to help him

through the long journey.
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