One month after resuming its round-the-world flight with a takeoff in Hawaii, the Solar Impulse 2 has completed the last leg of its North American journey, landing at New York’s JFK airport early Saturday, June 11th. After an incredible fly-by of the Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan in the early dawn hours, Solar Impulse 2, piloted by André Borschberg touched down and was greeted by a group of Solar Impulse support staff, industry partners, and media.
The team spent the day hosting VIPs, technology partners and members of the media who want to get a closer look at the aircraft, and interact with the pilots and engineers who made this dream possible. Now, completing a round-the-world flight without using a single drop of fuel is one step closer to becoming reality (and probably easier than scoring tickets to Hamilton…but don’t worry guys, I hear Jersey Boys is good also if you have a free evening while you’re in town!). Below, you’ll see a picture of the Solar Impulse 2 doing a fly-over above the Statue of Liberty (image courtesy of Solar Impulse), and safely in its hanger at JFK airport getting ready for photos.
Several reporters have already had a chance to see the plane up close as it made its way across North America…our friends at Desktop Engineering caught up with the plane while it was landed in Phoenix and spent some time learning about Dassault Systèmes’ contribution to this game-changing aircraft:
Working with Dassault Systèmes, their tools have improved over the past three years and are now really integrated,” [Andre] Borschberg said. For example, a change in a CATIA CAD model is automatically reflected in a SIMULIA mechanical simulation. “To be able to simulate everything is extremely important.”
“To save weight,” Borschberg noted, “there are very few metallic parts. There is some titanium, and some aluminum on the landing gear.” The lightest layers of carbon weigh just 25 gm/sq meter – one-third the weight of a sheet of paper – yet the aircraft carries a payload of approximately 300 kg.
He adds that the aircraft includes several 3D-printed plastic (via selective laser sintering) parts, “because we are prototyping, changing parts and making just a few [of each part].”
The pilot also explained how the design is an ongoing process, as the team simulates everything from wing shapes to energy usage and tries to measure everything that happens during a flight, with live-monitoring sensors. For example, due to a change in allowed flight plans on the Japan-to-Hawaii segment, the batteries were subjected to unexpectedly high operating temperatures and incurred some damage. However, because every circumstance allows learning and improvement, passive battery ventilation was adding prior to leaving Hawaii.
The Solar Impulse team has overcome tremendous adversity to make it this far. From having battery overheating issues over the Pacific, to being at the mercy of the weather, the team has steadily moved towards its objective. We’re happy to give our support and technology to the Solar Impulse team for this noble endeavor. We’re not ready to pop champagne just yet…looking out over the runway of JFK airport, we can see the Atlantic Ocean, which awaits the Solar Impulse team next. This multi-day flight across the sea is probably the most difficult part of the journey left, as the team targets a landing in Southern Europe, enroute to its ultimate destination of Abu Dhabi, where the aircraft first took flight in mid-2015. This leg of the journey is tentatively scheduled to begin on Sunday, June 19th. Good luck, and may the winds be at your back!