Solar Plane Touches Down in Oklahoma

The Solar Impulse 2 on May 12 touched down in Tulsa, Okla., after an 18-hour flight from Phoenix, Ariz. The Solar Impulse 2 completed the 11th leg in its journey across the world powered only by the sun. The Solar Impulse 2 ground team had arrived earlier in the day from Phoenix via commercial airline, and two of their own airplanes. The ground crew is in charge of everything from social media, media relations, navigation, plane maintenance, and planning.  

The Solar Impulse 2 is equipped with 17,248 solar cells built into the wings that power the four batteries (38.5kWh per battery) that in turn power the four electric engines (13.5kW/17.5hp each) and the propellers. The Solar Impulse 2 is a single-seater aircraft made of carbon fiber, has a wingspan of 72m/236ft (larger than a Boeing 747: 68m/223ft) and weighs (empty) 2300kg/5100lb, with a cruising speed of 45-55km/h / 28-34mph and a max altitude of 8’500m/28,000ft.

The Solar Impulse 2 has to depart early in the morning and arrive late at night to avoid winds so that it can ascend and descend without interruptions. The pilot for this leg of the journey was Bertrand Piccard. Piccard may be alone in the plane but he is always in contact with the Mission Control Center in Monaco, France. The MCC team is comprised of air traffic controllers, meteorologists, the Mission Director, mission engineers, mathematicians, and CAPCOM (Captain Communication—the direct contact with the flying pilot). The Mission Control Center maps out where the solar plane will land on each leg of the journey. The pilot is also always in contact with social media through, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Vine, LinkedIn, YouTube, Snapchat, Flickr, and Periscope.

After the sun went down and the Solar Impulse 2 was descending, Tulsa media outlets began receiving calls about “UFOs”. The outlets were quick to identify the flying object to concerned Okies. You can watch live video from inside the plane when it is flying from this link.

Andre Borschberg, Co-founder and CEO said, “Thanks to oil and the products that came from oil the plane is so energy efficient.” Borschberg was referring to the components of the plane being byproducts of oil. While in Tulsa the Solar Impulse 2 will be staying in an American Airline hanger out of the elements and the Mission Control Team will be monitoring weather and determine where the plane will travel when it leaves from Tulsa. The team usually knows only a day or a few hours in advance as to where they will go next. The Solar Impulse 2 ground team expect to be in Tulsa for about a week, as there will be some weather coming through the state within the next few days.

10 Cool Facts:

1.       Andre Borschberg set the record for a five-consecutive-days-and-nights flight over the Pacific Ocean.

2.       The pilots use fatigue management through self-hypnosis and meditation techniques.

3.       Daily requirement for nourishment includes 2.4 kg (5.2lbs) of food, 2.5l (84.5oz) of water and 1l (33.8 oz) of sports drinks.

4.       Living space of 3.8m3 fitted with a couchette seat and integrated toilet. (The pilot seat reclines and doubles as a toilet).

5.       There is a live satellite connection to the Mission Control Center at all times.

6.       The cabin is not pressurized and unheated.

7.       The pilot uses an oxygen mask and multiple layers of clothes to stay at cruising altitude.

8.       Maximum indicated air speed of 90 km/h (49kts).

9.       It’s estimated that there will be 16 stages to complete the journey around the world.

10.     The Mission Control Center is where all the decisions are made.

This article was originally published by PennEnergy and was republished with permission.

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