Solar Impulse 2 has taken off from Hawaii on the ninth leg of its record-breaking solar-powered journey around the world.
Piloted by Bertrand Piccard, the plane took from Kalealoa Airport at 12:16 p.m. ET. Solar Impulse 2 is expected to reach Moffett Airfield, Mountain View, Calif. at around 3 a.m. ET Sunday after a flight lasting about 62 hours.
The aircraft has had a nine-month layover in Hawaii while the Solar Impulse team fixed damage that occurred during Solar Impulse 2’s historic flight from Japan last year.
Solar Impulse 2 is seen as proving the potential of renewable energy and clean technology. Just before taking off, Piccard noted that Friday is Earth Day. “It’s very symbolic to be in the air at that moment,” he said.
The plane is the brainchild of explorer and Solar Impulse Chairman Piccard, who is taking it in turns with his fellow Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg to fly the aircraft on its journey across the globe.
“Have a great flight, Bertrand – enjoy it, and don’t forget to come down!” shouted Borschberg from the runway as Solar Impulse 2 took off.
Solar Impulse 2, a larger version of a single-seat prototype that first flew six years ago, is made of carbon fiber and has 17,248 solar cells built into the wing that supply the plane with renewable energy, via four motors. The solar cells recharge four lithium polymer batteries, which provide power for night flying.
The aircraft typically flies between 30 mph and 40 mph, although this can increase and decrease significantly depending on wind speed.
Borschberg piloted Solar Impulse 2 on the previous leg of its journey, landing in Hawaii on July 3 2015 after an incredible 4,480-mile, five -day flight. The 118-hour journey shattered the record for longest solar-powered flight in terms of distance and duration, easily surpassing the 1,491-mile, 44-hour record Borschberg set when flying from China to Japan on the prior leg of the trip. Borschberg also broke the record for longest non-stop solo flight without refueling, which previously stood at 76 hours and 45 minutes.
The incredible solar-powered trek began in March 2015 when the plane flew from Abu Dhabi to Oman. Solar Impulse 2 then flew to India, Myanmar and Nanjing, China, en route to an unscheduled stop in Nagoya, Japan. The plane originally left Nanjing for Hawaii, but diverted to Japan because of unfavorable weather.
After reaching California Solar Impulse 2 is slated to make stops in the midwest and New York before flying over the Atlantic Ocean. It will then stop in southern Europe or North Africa, depending on weather conditions, before ending its epic journey in Dubai.
Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers
The Associated Press contributed to this report.