HONOLULU, Hawaii, July 3, 2015 (ENS) – The world’s first attempt to circumnavigate the Earth by a piloted fixed-wing aircraft using only solar power has completed the longest, most difficult leg of its journey.
Landing in Hawaii at 5:55am local time after flying more than five days and nights from Nagoya, Japan to encourage the use of clean technologies, the solar-powered plane Solar Impulse, with André Borschberg at the controls, taxied to a stop in Kalaeloa, on the island of Oahu.
“We can fly day and night in an airplane without fuel!” exulted Borschberg, delighted with his achievement.
On the fourth day, Borschberg broke the record for the longest solo flight ever by remaining airborne above the Pacific Ocean for more than four consecutive days and nights.
In total, he covered 8,171 kilometers in 117 hours and 52 minutes.
“I feel exhilarated by this extraordinary journey,” said Borschberg. “I have climbed the equivalent altitude of Mount Everest five times without much rest. The team at the Mission Control Center in Monaco was my eyes and my ears.”
“The Mission Control Center was battling to give me the possibility to rest and recover, but also maximizing the aircraft’s energy levels and sending me trajectories and flight strategies simulated by computer,” he said.
The Round-The-World flight started from Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, on March 9. The route included stop-overs in Oman, India, Myanmar, China and Japan.
Having crossed the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii, Solar Impulse 2 is scheduled to fly across the United States and over the Atlantic Ocean, heading back to Abu Dhabi.
The wingspan of Solar Impulse 2 is 71.9 m (236 feet), slightly less than that of an Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger airliner, but the carbon-fiber Solar Impulse weighs only 2.3 metric tonnes (5,100 pounds), about the weight of an average automobile.
The non-pressurized cockpit is just 3.8 cubic meters in size. Supplemental oxygen and other environmental support systems allow the pilot to cruise up to an altitude of 12,000 meters (39,000 feet).
The privately financed project is led by Swiss businessman Borschberg and Swiss psychiatrist and aeronaut Bertrand Piccard, who co-piloted Breitling Orbiter 3, the first balloon to circle the world non-stop.
Borschberg said, “This success fully validates the vision that my partner Bertrand Piccard had after his round-the-world balloon flight to reach unlimited endurance in an airplane without fuel.”