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Solo power plane on trail by single Military Pilot

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Updated: 00:00 GMT, Jan 1, 1970 | Published: 06:12 GMT, May 4, 2015 |
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A pilot said Sunday that he is anxious but excited about flying a solar plane alone  from China to Hawaii on the longest leg of the first attempt to fly around the world without a drop of fuel.

The Solar Impulse 2 set off from Abu Dhabi in March and has stopped in Oman, India and Myanmar. Andre Borschberg and another Swiss pilot, Bertrand Piccard, are taking turns flying the single-seater Swiss plane during a five-month journey to promote renewable energy use.

The 8,175-kilometer (5,079-mile) flight from Nanjing in eastern China to Hawaii – which may take off Thursday, depending on weather – is the seventh of 12 flights. None of the previous legs were more than 20 hours – compared with an estimated flight time of 120 hours to Hawaii. “It’s the most challenging, yes, in the sense that we never flew over the oceans,” Borschberg said in a phone interview from Nanjing.

“There are of course also question marks with the type of airplane we have, is it capable to fly solo with this type of energy, and of course the challenge is on the pilot side as well … can I stay alert for this leg and be able to pilot this airplane, can I keep my energy at the right level, can I keep my spirits, my mindset to get this airplane to Hawaii.”

The aircraft will climb to the altitude of Mount Everest, almost 9,000 meters (29,500 feet), during the day to get more sunlight, recharge the batteries and store more energy. At nighttime, the plane will fly lower, at a minimum of 1,000 meters (3,000 feet). The pilot will experience temperatures ranging from 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) in the morning to minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit) early in the evening while the plane is still high up.

“It’s winter and summer every day in the cockpit,” said Borschberg, who flew military jets for 25 years as a reserve pilot in the Swiss army and is an entrepreneur by profession.