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The Solar Impulse 2 (Si2) has concluded the fourteenth and final leg of its high-profile crossing of North America with a stunning flyover of the famed Stature of Liberty last Saturday.
With Swiss pilot Bertrand Piccard in the cockpit, Si2 departed Dayton International Airport (KDAY/DAY) for Leg 13 on May 25 and flew to Lehigh Valley International Airport (KABE/ABE), near Allentown, Pennsylvania. After a 16-hour, 49-minute flight, the aircraft landed shortly before 21:00 EDT local time, and Piccard had dedicated the flight to the project engineers who had worked tirelessly on all the calculations and details required to ensure a safe and successful mission.
The departure had been scheduled for the day before, but an unexpected mishap with the electricity powering the aircraft’s portable, inflatable hanger caused a delay. The crew had to carefully inspect the lightweight carbon-fiber fuselage to ensure that it had not sustained damage from the weight of the partially deflated fabric. The experimental, Swiss-made plane was met at Lehigh Valley by its 75-strong ground crew, with some members riding alongside on electric bicycles to help slow the aircraft and support the giant wings on the tarmac. More than 100 fans were present to commemorate the occasion. The extended team includes another 75 support members at the Monaco Mission Control Center.
On Saturday, May 28, roughly 3,800 enthusiasts gathered at the airport, tickets in hand, to see the aircraft, up close and personal. Each spectator was limited to a 20-minute visit with the aircraft. Piccard told The Morning Call, the daily newspaper out of Allentown: “In addition to the message of clean technology, we speak a lot about adventure and exploration. Embrace the unknown. People are living this adventure with us. They understand they can be explorers in life, also. They can also push the limits.”
After a weather delay in eastern Pennsylvania due to thunderstorms, Andre Borschberg left Lehigh Valley for New York City late at night and landed about five hours later (03:59 EDT) on Saturday, June 11 at John F. Kennedy International Airport (KJFK/JFK). About 100 supporters, airport workers, and reporters were at JFK to greet the aircraft and pilot. Prior to this landing, however, Borschberg executed a stunning and dramatic overflight of one of America’s most cherished symbols of freedom – the Statue of Liberty, on Liberty Island in New York Harbor.
The flyover was symbolic for Borschberg and the Si2 crew and seemed like a fitting way to say thanks for all the warm wishes and friendly receptions they had received over the past six weeks in the U.S. Borschberg remarked: “The Statue of Liberty is a symbol of American values: the liberty to be a pioneer, the freedom to explore and invent. It welcomes travelers who arrive in this country, and flying over it was a tribute we paid for the special welcome we received at each destination.”
The pending eastbound departure from JFK will also hold symbolism for the team, as it will conjure memories of Charles Lindbergh’s maiden trans-Atlantic flight from Roosevelt Field, located near present-day JFK airport, to Le Bourget Airport (LFPB/LBG) in neighboring communes of Paris, France and home of the world-renowned Paris Air Show. The Si2 team has not announced a kick-off date yet for the Atlantic crossing but anticipates that it will be among the most challenging legs yet for the aircraft and Pilot Piccard.
So far, Si2 has traveled 18,540 miles (29,837 km) and has several legs remaining. If all goes according to plan, Si2 will return to Abu Dhabi, UAE in July or August. And with any luck, the 150-million-dollar mission will experience the near-perfect weather conditions needed for the remainder of the trip.
To keep track of the Atlantic crossing and the remaining legs through Europe and the Middle East, visit www.solarimpulse.com for frequent updates.