Solar Impulse 2 was forced to postpone its eagerly-anticipated flight from Lehigh Valley to New York as a result of bad weather early Tuesday.
The solar-powered plane was originally scheduled to take off from Lehigh Valley International Airport at midnight and was expected to arrive at New York’s JFK Airport about 4 hours later after a flyby of the Statue of Liberty.
The journey between Lehigh Valley and New York would have marked the 14th leg of the solar plane’s historic solar-powered trip around the world.
In a video posted to YouTube, Solar Impulse 2 pilot Andre Borschberg explained that the decision to postpone the trip came after a test flight. “There was a risk of showers – in some ways we underestimated the risk,” he said. “It was quite difficult to find a way back to the airport tonight when we were doing the test flight, so, of course, we didn’t want to proceed to JFK with this situation.”
Borschberg, who noted that the aircraft is fine, explained that the Solar Impulse team has to carefully plan the pioneering aircraft’s journeys. “When you work on this type of project, you learn all the time, you try to get close to the limits, you have to,” he said. “You try to not go over your limits, that’s what we did not do tonight.”
Solar Impulse has not yet announced when the rescheduled flight will take place.
The plane is the brainchild of explorer and Solar Impulse Chairman Piccard, who is taking it in turns with his fellow Swiss pilot Borschberg to fly the aircraft on its journey across the globe.
The aircraft, 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.
Solar Impulse 2 typically flies between 30 mph and 40 mph, although this can increase and decrease significantly depending on wind speed.
The plane has travelled 18,375 miles since setting off from on the first leg of the trip from Abu Dhabi to Oman in March 2015, and has racked up almost 385 hours of flight time.
Prior to its arrival in Lehigh Valley, Solar Impulse 2 made stops in India, Myanmar, China, Japan, Hawaii, California, Phoenix, Tulsa and Dayton. From New York, the plane will fly across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe. The final leg of the odyssey is from Europe to Abu Dhabi.
A huge inflatable mobile hangar that can be quickly assembled and disassembled is being used to shelter Solar Impulse 2 on its journey around the world.
Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers
The Associated Press contributed to this report.