“Solar Impulse 2“ completes longest-ever flight across Pacific to Hawaii
The Solar Impulse 2 airplane powered solely by solar power completed the longest flight of a plane ever on Friday when Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg landed safely in Honolulu, Hawaii five days and nights after he took off from Nagoya, Japan.
HONOLULU, Hawaii – The solar-powered SI2 airplane touched down in Hawaii at 05:55 a.m. local time (15:55 UTC) after flying nonstop for 118 hours across the Pacific Ocean, smashing a host of records in an grueling demonstration of the potential of clean energy. Borschberg’s 8674-kilometer solo flight into the history books at the controls of the airplane powered by 17,000 solar power cells embedded in its wings was the longest and most treacherous leg of the Solar Impulse 2’s 13-stop Round the World flight that began and will end in Abu Dhabi.
Never before had an airplane powered by renewable energy flown across the world’s largest ocean and never before had an airplane flown for five straight days and nights. And never before had a pilot stayed alone at the controls for such an extended period. Borschberg was planning to take 10 short 20-minute naps during the five days but ended up getting less rest than that due to heavy turbulence, stay awake and alert for most of the flight at the controls of the airplane that weighs as much as a car yet has a wingspan as large as a 747 as it flew across the ocean at speeds of between 50 km/h and 100 km/h.
“During the fourth day I felt tired, having climbed the equivalent altitude of Mount Everest four times. My body feels the harsh effects of needing to constantly use oxygen,” said Borschberg about the most difficult parts on his flight. He was welcomed in Honolulu by Hawaiian girls in grass skirts performing the traditional hula dance welcome and presenting the exhausted by smiling aviator with wreaths of flowers.
Borschberg, who said he w! as looki ng forward to a good steak in Honolulu after exhausting five days in the cramped cockpit, said the Solar Impulse 2 that did not need a drop of fossil fuel on its journey had performed exactly as he, SI1 co-founder Bertrand Piccard and the team of engineers had expected. The 62-year-old Swiss adventurer said that there was far more turbulence when he was flying at slower speeds to conserve the energy in the plane’s batteries. Piccard will fly the next leg from Honolulu to Phoenix.
The airplane, part of the “Future is Clean” action to promote renewable energy and demonstrate the potential of solar power, took off on Monday at 03:03 a.m. local time (18:03 UTC) from Japan and landed at the Kalaeloa Airport, O’ahu in Hawaii on Friday morning.
Last month on its first attempt across the Pacific, the Solar Impulse 2 was forced to land in Japan on June 1 while attempting to fly from Nanjing, China to Hawaii due to deteriorating weather conditions further east across the Pacific. The 40-hour non-stop flight was nevertheless the longest flight ever made to that point by a solar-powered airplane.
The flight began in Abu Dhabi in March and is on track to return to Abu Dhabi after 25 total days of flight on 13 legs.