After covering 42,000km, crossing four continents, three seas and two oceans, Solar Impulse 2 touched down on Tuesday 26th March to complete the first round-the-world flight by a solar powered aeroplane. Solar Impulse 2 set off from Abu Dhabi in March 2015 and took on 16 stages and numerous setbacks to the expedition to complete its journey where it all began in Abu Dhabi.
The two Swiss pilots and co-founders of the project Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg alternated the 16 legs of the journey. The pair were only able to take short naps and the single seat also doubled up as a toilet. The two pilots had to spend up to five days at a time in the unheated and unpressurised cabin. To calm their minds and manage fatigue during the long solo flights, Borschberg practiced yoga and Piccard self-hypnosis.
The pilots said it was an amazing adventure, despite sitting in a freezing cold cockpit for as long as five days and five nights at a time, not having enough room to stretch their arms, have a shower, or even go to the toilet properly.
In a statement this week, Borschberg said it is no longer a question of whether it's possible to fly without fuel or polluting emissions.
"By flying around the world thanks to renewable energy and clean technologies, we have demonstrated that we can now make our world more energy efficient," he said.
"The future is clean. The future is you. The future is now. Let's take it further," Piccard said.
Borschberg was in charge of the longest leg which was 4000 miles over the Pacific from Japan to Hawaii and broke the record for the longest uninterrupted flight in aviation history.
The longest leg of the journey was an 8,924km flight from Nagoya in Japan to Hawaii in the USA - it lasted nearly 118 hours and broke the absolute world record for the longest solo flight without a break. During the global adventure the team set 19 official flight records.
Piccard, a psychiatrist, is the son of undersea explorer Jacques Piccard and a grandson of balloonist Auguste Piccard. In 1999, he became the first person to circumnavigate the globe non-stop in a hot air balloon. Borschberg, an engineer and graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is also an entrepreneur. He launched the Solar Impulse project in 2003 with Piccard.
Solar Impulse 2 carries more than 17,248 solar cells on its wings which are 3.5m wider than that of a Boeing 747. During daylight, the plane’s batteries were charged by the solar panels which was over a quarter of a ton. Expedition began in Abu Dhabi in March 2015 and has spent just over 23 days in the air. The journey hastaken the aeroplane across both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans using no fossil fuels.
The project is estimated to cost more than $100 million. The UAE-based Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s government clean-energy company, was a main sponsor of the flight. There were more than 40 additional sponsors, including Omega, Belgian chemical company Solvay, Swedish-Swiss automation corporation ABB, Swiss manufacturer Schindler, Google, and Moet Hennessey among others.
The pilots faced a nine-month delay a year ago after the plane's batteries were damaged during a flight from Japan to Hawaii. It was also delayed for 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 Impulse 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 United Arab Emirates. Its North American stops included California, Arizona, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.