Solar Impulse 2, the aeroplane that is powered only by the sun, has landed in Hawaii after making a historic 7,200km flight across the Pacific from Japan. Pilot Andre Borschberg brought the vehicle gently down on to the runway of Kalaeloa Airport at 05:55 local time. The distance covered and the time spent in the air – 118 hours – are records for manned, solar-powered flight. The duration is also an absolute record for a solo, un-refuelled journey.
Mr Borschberg’s time betters that of the American adventurer Steve Fossett who spent 76 hours aloft in a single-seater jet in 2006. Despite being in the cockpit for so long, the Swiss pilot told the BBC that he did not feel that tired: “Interestingly, not really.
“I am also astonished. We got so much support during the flight from so many people; it gave me so much energy.” He said he looked forward to having a shower and visiting one of the many steakhouses suggested to him on the way into Hawaii’s O’ahu island. “We have some work to do, and to meet people, because I am sure a lot of people will want to see the aeroplane and discuss its technologies. But there is no way we shouldn’t try some surfing” he joked.
Saving power is key to the journey’s success, as the plane must reach heights of 9,000 metres during the day so that it can glide through the night. At top speed, it reaches 87mph. The plane is powered entirely by the 17,248 solar panels on its wings.
Bertrand Piccard. who is sharing flying duties in the quest to circumnavigate the globe will now fly the next leg from Hawaii to Phoenix, Arizona, a trip likely to take four days and nights. From Phoenix, Solar Impulse will head for New York and an Atlantic crossing that would eventually see the plane return to Abu Dhabi.