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Solar Impulse II: Plane soars for five days fuelled only by the sun

Pic credit: Solar Impulse
Solar Impulse II lands in Nayoga Hawaii. Pic credit: Solar Impulse

On Friday, the world record for the longest distance and duration for solar aviation was broken by Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg. Borschberg landed the Solar Impulse  II, his long-range solar powered aircraft in Nayoga, Hawaii after a non-stop five leg flight across the Pacific Ocean—relying solely on power from the sun.

Breaking records

According to the Solar Impulse team, during this flight Borschberg, who is CEO of the Solar Impulse project, has broken the world records for longest distance and duration for solar aviation, and the world record for the longest solo flight ever.

“I feel exhilarated by this extraordinary journey. I have climbed the equivalent altitude of Mount Everest five times without much rest. The team at the Mission Control Center (MCC) in Monaco was my eyes and my ears… The MCC 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.

“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.”

The Swiss innovators have proved that modern technological advances paired with team work and dedication can change the world.

Chairman and pilot of Solar Impulse Bertrand Piccard commented: “What André has achieved is extraordinary from the perspective of a pilot. But furthermore, he has also led the technical team during the construction of this revolutionary prototype.”

Where it all began

Solar Impulse 2
The carbon-fiber plane can reach a max speed of 140km per hour and has a wingspan of 72 meters, wider than a Boeing 747 and only weighing 5,000 pounds, the same weight as a car. Pic credit: Solar Impulse

In March, the Swiss solar powered prototype set off on its first leg of the five month journey taking off from the Al Bateen Executive Airport in Abu Dhabi.

The first flight of the Solar Impulse II lasted the duration of 12-hours before landing at the first stop in Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman. From here the two pilots flew the aircraft in relays as the plane was designed to carry one person only.

The route

From Oman the route included Ahmedabad and Varanasi, India; Mandalay, Myanmar; and Chongqing and Nanjing, China.

From Hawaii, which marks the ninth flight, Solar Impulse will continue across the Atlantic to Phoenix, and New York City at JFK in the US.

The final leg of the journey will include a stop-over in Southern Europe or North Africa before arriving back in Abu Dhabi.

The Future Is Clean campaign

The Solar Impulse team has initiated the Future Is Clean campaign, which according to the team serves as a petition to convince governments from across the globe to drive the much needed clean technology solutions around the globe and help ensure that the United Nations’ upcoming Conference on Climate Change (COP21) is successful in renewing the Kyoto protocol this December in Paris, France.

Ashley Theron
Ashley Theron-Ord is based in Cape Town, South Africa at Clarion Events-Africa. She is the Senior Content Producer across media brands including ESI Africa, Smart Energy International, Power Engineering International and Mining Review Africa.