After a flight across the Pacific Ocean, the Solar Impulse 2 landed in Hawaii recently, breaking the record for longest nonstop solar flight. Powered entirely by the sun, the plane’s journey from Japan to Hawaii was the longest leg of a planned trip around the globe and took 120 hours to complete.
Two Swiss pilots, Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, have taken turns piloting the single-seat airplane, with Borschberg at the controls for this Pacific leg of the journey – the riskiest stretch of the trip because the plane had nowhere to land in case of an emergency.
Impulse 2’s around-the-world adventure began in March from Abu Dhabi and was planned to end in the same city sometime this summer, however technical issues related to its batteries have now grounded the plane until next year.
The next flight was supposed to be flying across the continental United States with stops in Phoenix, an undetermined location in the Midwest and then on to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. The plane would have then crossed the Atlantic Ocean and stop in southern Europe or North Africa before ending the trip back in Abu Dhabi.
The flight from Japan to Hawaii was one of 13 planned legs with the aim of circumnavigating the globe. The achievement was meant as both a feat of mechanical ingenuity and a statement about the viability of solar power. The plane is the first of its kind and was attempting this journey after a dozen years of research, tests, and development.
Borschberg’s solo flight surpassed the previous record for longest solo endurance flight set by Steve Fossett, who flew for 76 hours and 45 minutes in 2006.
Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons