Takeoff for Leg #9!

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Harald and I sketched Solar Impulse 2 (Si2) at its departure last Thursday morning. Arriving at 4:00 a.m., we witnessed final preparations, as well as camera crews getting a pre-launch interview with pilot Bertrand Piccard. Shortly after, the plane was rolled out of the hangar and onto the airfield. Incredibly, only a handful of people are needed to push the plane. Soon all we could see in the distance were the flashing lights of the support vehicles and the dark silhouette of the plane, as the team waited for the breeze to die down.

The takeoff at sunrise was amazing. Within seconds Si2 was off the ground and gliding through the air above us, the propellers spinning so slowly that one would almost expect them to be pedal-powered. The plane had looked visibly fragile on the ground as it was moved to the runway, but once in the air it was as graceful as a giant albatross. Swinging around to face the open sea, Si2 continued to rise slowly into the morning sky, before disappearing from view on its three-day journey to California.

Check the Si2 blog, for updates on this amazing journey. They will be landing in Mountain View, California soon!

Caught in Action at Si2 Viewing

See the Si2 blog post!

Powered by Light

We had a wonderful opportunity to sketch Solar Impulse 2 (Si2) today during a public viewing at Kalaeloa Airport in Kapolei. Seeing the plane a second time (see our blog post of July 2015 for a report on our first encounter), we were again in awe of its size and extreme dimensions (did we mention the 236 ft. wing span?).

Unlike last year, the plane was fully assembled, with solar cells on display and the cockpit interior visible to the public. Informative placards and a promotional video related the challenges of flying around the world with only photons for fuel. The hangar was bustling with energy; viewers surrounded Si2 team members to learn about the flight and the plane, while members of the press dashed through the crowds to document the event.

For us sketchers, Si2 proved a difficult subject again. The extreme lateral dimensions of the plane required heavy use of thumbs and pencils for mapping purposes. The rounded, unconventional shapes of the body and cockpit proved tricky to capture too.

Talking to one of the Si2 team members we learned that the plane is scheduled to depart for its next leg (destination: Phoenix, AZ) as soon as the weather allows, but no earlier than April 15. Keep an eye on the news and the mission website to learn about the actual date. Takeoff will be early in the morning and should be quite a sight!

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As always, don’t forget to check out the day’s sketches on the USkO Flickr page.

Round the World on Solar Power

For convenience, register for the viewing here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/public-visit-to-discover-solar-impulse-2-in-hawaii-tickets-22576755684?aff=es2

For a sneak peek check out our post from July.

Solar Impulse 2 at Kalaeloa Airport

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.