Severe Weather Across Mid-West Challenges Solar Impulse Project
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
The Solar Impulse team of Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg is facing a difficult challenge as it took off for St. Louis this morning. Besides a lingering threat for severe weather along the flight route, Friday´s wrath of storms damaged the hangar at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport to the point that it cannot be used.
Despite the storm damage in St. Louis, the Solar Impulse team has moved ahead with the third leg of their Across America 2013 Project. After landing in St. Louis, the plane will make use of a revolutionary inflatable hangar to store the HB-SIA zero-fuel airplane during the layover. The inflatable hangar will be deployed just ahead of the scheduled landing on June 4.
The team said in an email statement on Sunday that postponing the flight is not an option, as the difficult weather conditions in the region leave the crew with relatively few flight possibilities between Dallas-Fort Worth and St. Louis. The team said this could be the only time available this week to get a flight in to remain on schedule. If the team does not seize the opportunity now, it could seriously hinder the chances of reaching the final destination (New York City) on time.
At 4:06 a.m. CDT this morning, Piccard took off from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport in the Solar Impulse aircraft headed for St. Louis. The flight is scheduled to last 21 hours, which will be the longest flight Piccard has undertaken in the zero-fuel airplane to date.
The scheduled flight route will take Piccard across the Texas/Oklahoma border at around 6:00 a.m. CDT, heading north toward Tulsa. He should pass east of Oklahoma City around 9:00 a.m. CDT at a cruising altitude of 6,000 feet. Piccard should pass the Tulsa region around 11:00 a.m. and then near Independence, Kansas at 1:00 p.m., where the airplane will then be turned east toward Missouri, flying at about 10,000 feet.
Piccard is then scheduled to fly between the Lake of Ozarks State Park and Fort Leonard Wood around 5:00 p.m. CDT at 27,000 feet. Shortly before Piccard´s landing in St. Louis at around 1:00 a.m. CDT on June 4, the Solar Impulse team in St. Louis will deploy the inflatable hangar at the airport, allowing the team to quickly house the aircraft.
Once Piccard lands at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport the team will schedule an open house for visitors, as well as key events as part of its Clean Generation Initiative. The St. Louis stopover was seen as an important point of interest because of its history in the world of aviation. St. Louis was a key destination for Charles Lindbergh, who delivered air mail between there and Chicago regularly. His historic airplane is even named after the city: “Spirit of St. Louis.”
After their stay in St. Louis, Piccard and Borschberg will continue alternating as pilots for the project. Borshcberg will fly from St. Louis to Washington DC for the fourth leg and Piccard will take the helm for the final leg on the flight to New York.
Follow today’s flight live at SolarImpulse.com.