An attempt to fly a solar-powered plane around the world without a drop of fuel has hit a big speed bump in Hawaii. Solar Impulse 2 suffered "irreversible" battery damage due to overheating during a non-stop, five-day flight to Kalaeloa from Nagoya, Japan, mission officials have revealed.
The plane, with Swiss pilot André Borschberg at the controls, landed safely in Kalaeloa on July 3, completing the longest leg of the around-the-world attempt and breaking the record for the world's longest nonstop solo flight. The team's elation quickly deflated, however, after a post-flight maintenance check turned up a debilitating mechanical issue.
"Following the record-breaking oceanic flight of 5 days and 5 nights (117 hours and 52 minutes) in a solar powered airplane, Solar Impulse will undergo maintenance repairs on the batteries due to damages brought about by overheating," the Solar Impulse team said in an update on Saturday.
"The damage to certain parts of the batteries is irreversible and will require repairs and replacements that will take several weeks to work through. In parallel, the Solar Impulse engineering team is looking at various options for better management of the cooling and heating process for very long flights."
The plane, which has been alternating between and Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard as solo pilots, will not schedule further flights "before 2-3 weeks at the earliest."
Solar Impulse set off from Abu Dhabi in March in a multi-leg attempt to fly around the world powered by the sun's energy. The project, estimated to cost more than $100 million, is meant to demonstrate the importance of clean technologies and renewable energy.