Date
24 July 2017
The Swiss-designed plane has made 16 stops around the world to complete its epic 40,000-kilometer journey. Photo: Reuters
The Swiss-designed plane has made 16 stops around the world to complete its epic 40,000-kilometer journey. Photo: Reuters

Historic solar flight marks first round-the-world journey

Solar Impulse 2 landed in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, completing the world’s first round-the-world flight powered solely by the sun’s energy.

The Swiss-designed plane, which first took off from the capital of the United Arab Emirates in March 2015, has made 16 stops around the world to complete its epic 40,000-kilometer journey, Bloomberg reports.

After landing the plane, pilot Bertrand Piccard was greeted outside the cockpit by his fellow pilot Andre Borschberg. They hugged and pumped their fists in the air.

“The future is clean. The future is you. The future is now. Let’s take it further,” Piccard said amid applause and cheers from a crowd that included Prince Albert of Monaco.

The aircraft is equipped with 17,248 solar cells that transfer energy to four electrical motors that power the plane’s propellers. It runs on four lithium polymer batteries at night.

The plane’s wingspan stretches 236 feet (72 meters) to catch the sun’s energy.

At around 5,070 pounds (2,300 kilograms), the plane weighs about as much as a minivan or mid-sized truck. An empty Boeing 747, in comparison, weighs 400,000 pounds.

To help steady it during takeoffs and landings, the plane was guided by runners and bicyclists.

The pilots faced a nine-month delay a year ago after the plane’s batteries were damaged during a flight from Japan to Hawaii.

There was also a delay of more than a week in Cairo ahead of its final flight to Abu Dhabi when Piccard fell ill, and due to poor weather conditions.

Over its entire mission, Solar Impluse 2 completed more than 500 flight hours, cruising at an average speed of between 28 mph (45 kmh) and 56 mph (90 kmh).

It made stops in Oman, India, Myanmar, China, Japan, the United States, Spain, Italy, Egypt and the UAE.

Its North American stops included California, Arizona, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.

The carbon-fiber plane is a single-seater aircraft; its two Swiss pilots had to take turns flying solo for long days and nights.

To calm their minds and manage fatigue during the long solo flights, Borschberg practiced yoga and Piccard self-hypnosis, the report said.

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