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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

MY VISIT WITH SOLAR IMPULSE 2 IN HAWAII


The wingspan is longer than that of a Boeing 747, but the weight is of a typical car at 5000 pounds (the 2 TONS to the left should have been 2.5 tons).  The frame is made of composite materials and the structure is proportionately ten times lighter than the best glider.  As there is no heater and the temperature can reach minus 40 F, the insulation system they developed will have applications in the home.

As Solar Impulse 2 is using the University of Hawaii hangar at Kalaeloa Airport, which was once called the Naval Air Station at Barbers Point, now officially called John Rogers Field, confusing, because that was the former name of the Honolulu International Airport, almost 20 miles away.  In any case, because the plane is parked in our hangar, elements of the campus were invited to a special showing.  The timing couldn't have been any worse, because the UH Honolulu Community College just announced disestablishment of  their pilot training program here.  Actually the UH doesn't own this facility.  We are paying $1/year rent to our state Department of Education.

We saw a film and were addressed by pilot Andre Borschberg.  I asked him what the whole project will cost.  I think he said $150 million, but went into a lengthy exposition on R&D, that the effort has taken a dozen years and so on:


He also indicated that the team has been invited to take an active role in the next climate change gathering, COP21 in Paris at the end of the year.  He brought up a good point.  While the world grumbles and laments the tragedy of high temperatures and sea level rise, nobody is doing anything about it. Solar Impulse 2 (here landing  in Hawaii on Friday) is providing solutions.



If all goes well, Solar Impulse 2, this time to be piloted by Bertrand Piccard (left), could leave this weekend for Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix.  The original Solar Impulse flew into this city two years ago, so it will be like a homecoming.  It has been just about four months since first departing from Abu Dhabi.

While I don't think solar PV will ever be utilized for widespread passenger transport in the air--for sunlight is just not intense enough and PV cell efficiencies are too low, plus speed and, thus, time, are factors beyond the capabilities of this system--just the fact that Solar Impulse 2, a second of its kind experimental aircraft, has made it this far, is an incredible feat.  Try building anything  with any kind of complexity for the first time and expect it to work.  Toss in the challenge that your life is on the line, and you can't help but be impressed with what they have accomplished.

Totally changing subjects, our 15C Monday night table last night featured Moscow and Molokai Mules:


Regular vodka for the Russian version, and mango / passion fruit flavored Smirnoff for the Molokai Mule.  Our table wireless speaker played Russian music, while one of our appetizers was a kind of caviar (salmon eggs and shiso in chikuwa):


No photos of the rest of the meal, for that was forgettable.  So much so that Mino sitting to my left had Oxtail Soup with no cilantro, while Dexter to my right had Oxtail Soup with cilantro.  Next Monday night:  variations on Kahlua:

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There are a couple of disturbances south and east of Hawaii, but current computer models do not show much.  However, in the West Pacific, Typhoon Chan-hom is now up to 90 MPH and will soon attain Category 4 strength.  The projected eye remains right over the island of Miyakojima, but any movement north will affect Naha, while a slightly southern turn will impact Taiwan.  The current China landfall is projected to be between Taizhou and Wenzhou.


All models show Chan-ho weakening, then heading over land to Shanghai.

Far more beastly is Typhoon Nangka, now already at 140 MPH.  On a path just to the north and behind Chan-hom, Nangka will almost surely become a super typhoon and weaken (hopefully), before turning north and heading in the general direction of Japan:


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