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The record-breaking Solar Impulse 2 plane has been grounded in Hawaii for repairs that will last several months. This comes as the second repair stop during its attempt to fly around the globe.
A team trying to fly a solar-powered plane around the world said it was temporarily suspending the journey in Hawaii after the plane had suffered battery damage during its record-breaking flight. The Solar Impulse team members said they will continue the attempt to circumnavigate the globe, but the damage caused by overheating batteries had apparently grounded the flight until at least April 2016.
"Irreversible damage to certain parts of the batteries will require repairs which will take several months," a company statement said. The team said that the batteries aboard Solar Impulse 2 had overheated on the first day of its trip from Japan to Hawaii, adding that there was no way to cool down the system.
Solar Impulse said there was no weakness with the technology, but the team hadn't anticipated temperature fluctuations associated with rapid altitude changes in a tropical climate. While the aircraft is in a hanger at the University of Hawaii for repairs, the team said it would also be researching alternative methods to cool the craft.
Andre Borschberg flew the single-seat aircraft to from Nagoya, Japan, to Kalaeloa, a small airport outside Honolulu, on July 3. The flight set a new record for the world's longest nonstop solo flight. Borschberg and Swiss aviator Bertrand Piccard have been alternating flights in Solar Impulse's cockpit.
"Setbacks are part of the challenges"
"Solar Impulse is attempting a historic first of flying around the world only on solar energy," the team said in a statement. "While Solar Impulse has completed eight legs, covering nearly half of the journey, setbacks are part of the challenges of a project which is pushing technological boundaries to the limits."
Solar impulses wings, which are wider than those of a Boeing 747, are equipped with 17,000 solar cells to power propellers and charge the craft's batteries. Its cruising speed ranged from 28 mph to 56 mph (45 kph to 90 kph) depending on solar activity.
The aircraft had already made an unplanned stop for nearly a month in Japan after high winds had damaged a wing.
ss/sms (AP, AFP)