In July 2015, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg announced that their attempt to complete the first round-the-world solar flight was grounded in Hawaii due to technical difficulties. This past weekend, Piccard, the founder and pilot of the Solar Impulse 2, completed the ninth leg of the journey, covering the 4,086-km journey in 62 hours and 29 minutes.
While the duration is substantially more than Amelia Earhart’s flight from Hawaii to California, which she completed in 18 hours, it’s a promising feat for solar-powered aircraft.
Piccard landed in the Moffett Airfield in Mountain View, Calif. on Saturday after completing the journey without a single drop of fuel. The journey began Thursday April 21, with Piccard taking off from Kalaeoloa Airport.
“You know there was a moment in the night, I was watching the reflection of the moon on the ocean and I was thinking ‘I’m completely alone in this tiny cockpit and I feel completely confident.’ And I was really thankful to life for bringing me this experience,” said Piccard at a news conference following the landing, according to the AP.
With a wingspan larger than a Boeing 747 but the heft of a car, the Solar Impulse 2 is completely powered by the more than 17,000 solar cells that supply power to the four electric motors and charge the aircraft’s batteries.
According to the AP, the plane’s ideal speed is around 28 mph. During the ninth leg, it traveled at a max altitude of 8,634 m.
“I’m very happy that everything works extremely well and the airplane is functioning as it should,” Borschberg said to CNN.
While 62 hours in a 3.8-m size cockpit is nothing to scoff at, Borschberg spent 117 hours and 52 minutes in the same conditions when he first began the duo’s Pacific crossing, flying from Nagoya, Japan to Hawaii.
The Solar Impulse 2 became an aerial spectacle for people in the San Francisco Bay Area as it flew over the Golden Gate Bridge.
“I could continue all the way to New York,” Piccard joked before landing the aircraft.
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