After crossing the Himalayas and the Pacific, the fuel-free Solar Impulse 2 plane overcame the Rockies on May 12 during the Arizona-to-Oklahoma leg of its round-the-world odyssey.
“As you can imagine, flying over the Rocky Mountains is a challenge for an aircraft like Si2,” the Solar Impulse team said in a blog post. “But perhaps not for the reasons you would expect.”
The altitude wasn’t the biggest concern, although pilot Bertrand Piccard used an oxygen mask to cope with altitudes ranging up to 22,000 feet. Rather, it was the weather. Solar Impulse 2 is designed to soak up enough sunlight during the day to keep flying during the night, but it doesn’t do well during cloudy and stormy weather. That’s just the sort of weather that tends to build up during this time of year in the Rockies.
May 12 provided a window of opportunity for Piccard to make his way over the mountains in northern New Mexico and head eastward. Until this week, the plan was to stop over in Kansas City, Mo., but the Solar Impulse team said “we had to find a different solution” due to difficult weather conditions over the Kansas plains. So Piccard targeted Oklahoma’s Tulsa International Airport instead.