On Friday, July 17, AJ, Harald, and I arranged to visit the Solar Impulse 2 (Si2), a giant plane aiming to complete the first-ever round-the-world flight solely powered by the sun. Victoire, a member of the Solar Impulse press team, was an excellent host and guide. She shared with us the technical and cultural challenges that the team encountered on their journey so far.
As we walked across the airfield, we saw forklifts loading Si2 parts and supplies onto an Ilyushin cargo plane. Entering the hangar, we got a firsthand impression of the solar plane’s size and unusual proportions. At a wingspan of 72 m (greater than a Boeing 747), the plane just barely fits into the hangar. The plane’s solar panels were covered in reflective foil, and the propellers were dismounted revealing the battery compartments. We were able to see the plane from all angles – even from a balcony above. Although it was a hot day, we greatly enjoyed our visit.
I found the Si2 challenging to sketch because of its size. I actually had to swivel my head from left to right to see the entire plane.
Due to repairs, Si2 missed its opening for the next leg of the flight and will overwinter at Kalaeloa Airport. While the plane stays here, the team will spend their winter in Europe. The round-the-world flight will continue in early April next year. We look forward to the team’s return and hope to coordinate a full-scale event to sketch the plane in March before it departs for Phoenix, Arizona.