The Swiss team attempting to make the first round-the-world trip in a solar-powered plane has been forced to abandon the trip — for this year, anyway. The Solar Impulse 2 aircraft is grounded in Hawaii until next April at least, following battery damage during its record-breaking flight from Japan.
Pilot and designer André Borschberg said the battery overheated in the tropical conditions at high altitudes over the Pacific ocean, and it will take several months to repair. Borschberg broke the record for the longest solo flight earlier this month, as well as time and distance records for solar-powered flight, during the Solar Impulse 2's journey from Nagoya, Japan to Hawaii.
The plane successfully landed at Kalaeloa Airport in Oahu, Hawaii on July 3rd, after flying 4,474 miles in 118 hours. Solar Impulse 2 will now face an extended stay in the University of Hawaii hanger at the airport due to the damage.
Parts of the batteries were irreversibly damaged in the first day of the flight across the Pacific Ocean.
Borschberg said "it was an error in the evaluation of how to use these batteries in a steep climb and over insulation of the battery pack" that caused the batteries to overheat. The engineers will not be able to fix the problem before the end of the season, meaning Borschberg and his co-pilot Bertrand Piccard will have to wait until 2016 to continue their mission.
"It shows that making the impossible happen takes more than the possible," added a surprisingly upbeat Borschberg.
Once the battery is repaired, the team will carry out some test flights. The Solar Impulse 2 can then continue its journey to the mainland United States, before heading on to its final destination in Abu Dhabi — where the trip started on March 9. They hope to be able to commence in April 2016.
Borschberg encouraged supporters to keep contributing money to his Future Is Clean initiative while the Solar Impulse is grounded. The organization is trying to convince governments around the world to invest in clean technology.