Byline: Louise Watt
BEIJING -- A pilot said Sunday that he is anxious but excited about flying a solar plane solo from China to Hawaii on the longest leg of the first attempt to fly around the world without a drop of fuel.
Andre Borschberg, 62, is due to fly over the Pacific Ocean for five days and five nights in the plane that has more than 17,000 solar cells on its wings to power its motors and recharge its batteries for nighttime flying.
The Solar Impulse 2 set off from Abu Dhabi in March and has stopped in Oman, India and Myanmar. 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...