Solar Impulse 2 has completed its historic round-the world trip, after the aircraft touched down in Abu Dhabi.
Pilot Bertrand Piccard conducted the final leg of the epic journey, steering the plane safely from the Egyptian capital Cairo to the UAE.
He has been taking turns at the controls with Swiss compatriot Andre Borschberg, with the mission aiming to promote renewable energy.
It brings to an end a voyage that began in Abu Dhabi on March 9, 2015.
Arriving into Abu Dhabi, Bertrand Piccard said: “The future is clean. The future is you. The future is now. Let’s take it further.”
The 17-stage journey covered some 42,000km, taking in four continents, three seas and two oceans.
The longest leg, an 8,924km flight from Nagoya in Japan to Hawaii, US, lasted nearly 118 hours and saw Andre Borschberg break the absolute world record for longest (time duration) uninterrupted solo flight.
It was just one of 19 official aviation records set during the global adventure.
Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg have been working on the Solar Impulse project for more than a decade.
They had hoped to complete the challenge in 2015 but progress was not quite swift enough to get the best of the weather in the Northern Hemisphere’s summer.
When battery damage was sustained on that epic five-day, five-night passage over the western Pacific in June/July 2015, the decision was taken to ground the effort for 10 months.
Solar Impulse is no heavier than a car, but has the wingspan of a Boeing 747. It is powered by 17,000 solar cells.
The solar-powered aircraft’s experimental design presents a number of technical difficulties, with the airplane being very sensitive to weather conditions.
Solar Impulse 2 has landed in Hawaii after making a historic 7,200km (4,470 miles) flight across the Pacific from Japan.
Pilot Andre Borschberg brought the sun-powered plane gently down on to the runway of Kalaeloa Airport at 05:55 local time.
The distance covered and the time spent in the air – 118 hours – are records for manned, solar-powered flight.
The duration is also an absolute record for a solo, un-refueled journey.
Andre Borschberg’s time betters that of the American adventurer Steve Fossett who spent 76 hours aloft in a single-seater jet in 2006.
He said he looked forward to having a shower and visiting one of the many steakhouses suggested to him on the way into Hawaii’s O’ahu island.
Meeting Andre Borschberg in Kalaeloa was his partner on the Solar Impulse project, Bertrand Piccard.
Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg are sharing flying duties in their quest to circumnavigate the globe – an effort they began in Abu Dhabi, UAE, back in March.
It is Bertrand Piccard who will now fly the next leg from Hawaii to Phoenix, Arizona.
That will not be quite as far as the leg just completed, but it will still likely take four days and nights.
From Phoenix, Solar Impulse 2 will head for New York and an Atlantic crossing that would eventually see the plane return to Abu Dhabi.
First, the Solar Impulse ground crew in Kalaeloa will need a few days to check over the aircraft.
During this servicing, meteorologists will once again take on the tricky task of finding a suitable flight window.
Getting Solar Impulse 2 to Hawaii proved more problematic than anyone could have imagined.
The project was stuck in Nanjing, China, for five weeks before the first attempt to cross the ocean was made.
Solar Impulse 2’s slow speed, light weight and 72m wingspan put significant constraints on the type of weather the vehicle can handle, and that first sortie was aborted after just one day in the air because of a fast developing cold front ahead of it.
Andre Borschberg diverted to Nagoya, and then had to wait a further month before being given the green light on Monday to again take off for Kalaeloa.
Even so, he has had to cross two weather fronts this week and has endured some uncomfortable turbulence as a consequence.
The Swiss team is using the various stopovers on its round-the-world journey to carry a campaigning message to local people on the topic of clean technologies.
The Solar Impulse 2 plane is not really intended to be a vision of the future of aviation. Rather, it is supposed to be a demonstration of the current capabilities of solar power in general.
The vehicle is covered in 17,000 photovoltaic cells. These either power the vehicle’s electric motors directly, or charge its lithium-ion batteries, which sustain the plane during the night hours.
Solar Impulse 2 is making its second bid at a record-breaking flight across the Pacific Ocean.
The solar-powered plane took off from Nagoya Airfield in Japan at 18:03 GMT on June 28 and is scheduled to land in Hawaii in approximately 120 hours.
Solar Impulse 2 said on its website that pilot Andre Borschberg had passed the point of no return.
The team has spent nearly two months waiting for a clear weather window to cross the Pacific.
“Andre Borschberg has passed the point of no return and must now see this 5 days 5 nights flight through to the end,” the Solar Impulse team said on its website.
Andre Borschberg now no longer has the option to turn around and return to Japan, if the weather forecast changes.
The first attempt to fly over the Pacific Ocean was cut short after a change in the forecast forced an unscheduled landing.
Another attempt to take off on June 23 was cancelled at the last moment because of concerns about the conditions.
This time, the team will not be widely publicizing the take-off until the plane is several hours into its flight, as it may need to turn back if the forecast changes.
However, if the pilot succeeds, it will be the longest-duration solo flight in aviation history, as well as the furthest distance flown by a craft that is powered only by the Sun.
The Pacific crossing is the eighth leg of Solar Impulse’s journey around the world.
But this stage has proven to be the most difficult, and has been hit by weeks of delays.
Swiss pilot and Solar Impulse co-founder Andre Borschberg, who is flying the experimental single-seater craft, was initially supposed to begin his journey to Hawaii from Nanjing in China.
He spent weeks there, with his ground-support team, waiting for the right flying conditions to present themselves.
Andre Borschberg finally took off on May 31, but a deterioration in the forecast a few hours into the mission meant that he had to divert to Japan.
The rainy season in Nagoya has meant another long wait there – but after the false start last week, meteorologists are now confident they have found a weather window to make the five-day, five-night crossing to Hawaii.
A spokesperson said that the plane would be heading straight out across the Pacific.
The experimental craft – which has 17,000 solar cells – is powered only by the Sun.
Once over the ocean, if it fails to soak up enough rays to fully charge its batteries and make it through the night, the pilot could be forced to bail out.
Andre Borschberg has been trained for that eventuality.
He has a dinghy and enough supplies for several days while he waits for the team to identify a vessel to go pick him up.
But, of course, the team hopes none of this will be necessary.
Andre Borschberg’s will spend the duration of the flight strapped into his seat in a cockpit that is about the same size as a telephone booth.
He will only be allowed to take 20-minute cat-naps, but says he will use yoga and meditation to make his journey more comfortable.
If this flight succeeds, the plane will continue its journey around the world, with Bertrand Piccard taking the controls for the next Pacific crossing from Hawaii to the US mainland.
Solar Impulse 2 will then continue across North America, before attempting to fly over the Atlantic.
However, the build-up of delays could impact on the later stages. Ideally, the plane needs to cross the Atlantic before August, when the hurricane season reaches its peak.
Solar Impulse 2 has taken off in its sixth flight from Chongqing in western-central China to Nanjing in the east.
The zero-fuel airplane started to fly around the world in Abu Dhabi, UAE on March 9.
Solar Impulse 2 was only supposed to stay a few hours in Chongqing after arriving from Myanmar (Burma), but poor weather grounded the plane for three weeks.
The team is now confident conditions will remain fair for the Nanjing leg.
Getting to eastern China would set up the project for its greatest challenge yet – a five-day, five-night crossing to Hawaii.
The latest leg saw Solar Impulse 2 leave the runway at Chongqing International Airport at just after 06:00 local time, on April 21. Project chairman, Bertrand Piccard, is again at the controls of the single-seater aircraft.
Bertrand Piccard is taking it in turns with CEO Andre Borschberg. But as the engineer in the partnership, Andre Borschberg wants to do the Hawaii leg, so Bertrand Piccard has elected to do both Chinese stages. He brought the plane in from Mandalay, Myanmar, to Chongqing, and is now flying the 1,200km to Nanjing as well. It should take him about 17 hours.
Once in Nanjing, the team will stay put for at least 10 days, carefully checking over the aircraft and running through a training program ahead of the first Pacific leg.
“I think 10 days is the time we need to get ready. Then we need to wait for a good weather window,” explained mission director Raymond Clerc.
“That could be three days; we could have to wait three weeks – because this leg is really the most important and is very complex. To go towards Hawaii could last five days and five nights.”
Nanjing is about 125 miles from the coast, very close to Shanghai. The first Pacific leg would cover a distance of more than 4,950 miles.
Solar Impulse 2 has left Myanmar for China on the fifth leg of its round-the-world flight.
The solar-powered plane, with Bertrand Piccard at the controls, left Mandalay in Myanmar (Burma) just after 3AM local time on Monday, March 30, and is heading for Chongqing in China.
The intention is to make a brief stop there, and then try to reach Nanjing on the east coast of China.
This would set up Solar Impulse 2 for the first of its big ocean crossings – a five-day, five-night flight to Hawaii.
Mission control will not make a decision on the Nanjing leg until late on Monday, March 30.
The decision may rest on the state of the energy reserves held in the plane’s batteries.
China’s air traffic authorities would like the team to start the sixth leg before dawn. But if the reserves are marginal then Solar Impulse will be held in Chongqing until the batteries can be charged.
The problem with this scenario is that poor weather is forecast in the Chongqing region in the coming days, and if Solar Impulse does not leave straightaway, it could be delayed for perhaps a week.
Solar Impulse 2 took off from Mandalay International Airport in darkness at 03:36 local time, on March 30. Leg five is a long one – about 1,375km – and is expected to take roughly 19 hours.
It would see Solar Impulse landing around midnight local time at Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport.
It is 20 days since the venture got under way from Abu Dhabi.
The Swiss-based project expects the circumnavigation of the globe to be completed in a total of 12 legs, with a return to the Emirate in a few months’ time.
Bertrand Piccard is sharing the flying duties in the single-seater plane with his business partner, Andre Borschberg.
In the past month, Solar Impulse 2 has set two world records for manned solar-powered flight.
The first was for the longest distance covered on a single journey – that of 1,468km between Muscat, Oman, and Ahmedabad, India.
The second was for a groundspeed of 117 knots (135mph), which was achieved during the leg into Mandalay, Myanmar, from Varanasi, India.
No solar-powered plane has ever flown around the world.
The Solar Impulse 2 venture does however recall some other recent circumnavigation feats in aviation – albeit fuelled ones.
In 1986, the Voyager aircraft became the first to fly around the world without stopping or refueling.
Piloted by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, the propeller-driven vehicle took nine days to complete its journey.
Then, in 2005, this time was beaten by the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer, which was solo-piloted by Steve Fossett.
A jet-powered plane, GlobalFlyer completed its non-stop circumnavigation in just under 3 days.
Solar Impulse 2 has a wingspan of 72m – bigger than that of a 747 jumbo jet airliner – but only weighs 2.3 tonnes.
Its four propellers are dependent on the electricity from 17,000 solar cells that line the top of the wings.
During the night, the props’ motors must call on the excess energy generated and stored during the day in lithium-ion batteries.
Solar Impulse 2 is in the air again, crossing India and hoping to make it to Myanmar on March 19.
The solar-powered plane attempting to fly around the world, with Andre Borschberg at the controls, took off from Ahmedabad at 07:18 local time.
Solar Impulse 2 is heading to Varanasi in India’s Uttar Pradesh region, where it will make a short “pit stop” before pushing on over the Bay of Bengal.
The leg to Mandalay in Myanmar (Burma) will be flown by Bertrand Piccard.
The two pilots are taking it in turns to guide Solar Impulse 2 on its circumnavigation of the globe.
So far, they have covered about 2,000km in two segments since beginning the adventure in Abu Dhabi.
It will likely be another five months before they return to the United Arab Emirates, having crossed both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans in the process.
Today’s take-off was delayed by almost two hours because of customs issues.
The roughly 1,100km from Ahmedabad to Varanasi is the third leg of the mission and should take Borschberg about 15 hours to complete.
The team will then lay over for a few hours before taking off for Mandalay.
This fourth leg is longer – about 1,500km – and has some tricky conditions to negotiate.
“In Varanasi, we can expect to have foggy mornings, which could be a problem for an early take-off,” explained Christophe Beesau, who works on flight strategy.
“And for leg four, of course, we will cross the Bay of Bengal. This may be challenging because we have often at altitude an important wind, and, on the other hand, due to air traffic control restrictions, we have to keep the track.
“We know that we will have to adjust carefully the flight profile to avoid this problem.”
About two hours before landing in Mandalay, Solar Impulse 2 will have to fly over a big range of mountains up to 3,000m in height.
It will aim to get this done before sunset so that it can then gently descend towards the Myanmar city in the dark.
The Solar Impulse project has already set plenty of world records, including the greatest distance covered in a single solar-powered flight.
This was the 1,468km attained on leg two from Muscat in Oman to Ahmedabad.
The wingspan of the vehicle is 72m, which exceeds that of a 747 jumbo jet airliner. It does, however, only weigh 2.3 tonnes.
Its light weight will be critical to its success over the coming months.
The Pacific and Atlantic crossings will require Solar Impulse 2 to fly non-stop for several days at a time.
Solar Impulse 2’s 35,000km journey around the world is set to get under way on Monday, March 9.
The solar-powered plane will take off from Abu Dhabi and head east, first to Oman, and then to India.
Over the next five months, Solar Impulse 2 will skip from continent to continent, crossing both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans in the process.
Swiss adventurers Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg will share the pilot duties in the single-seater vehicle.
They will stop off at various locations to rest and to carry out maintenance, and also to spread a campaigning message about clean technologies.
Andre Borschberg will start the journey with a takeoff from the Emirate’s international airport at about 06:30 local time.
The project has already set a number of world records for solar-powered flight, including making a high-profile transit of the US in 2013.
The round-the-world venture is altogether more dramatic and daunting, and has required the construction of an even bigger plane than the prototype, Solar Impulse-1.
This new model has a wingspan of 72m, which is wider than a 747 jumbo jet. And yet, it weighs only 2.3 tonnes.
Its light weight will be critical to its success.
Solar Impulse 2 has 17,000 solar cells that line the top of the wings, and the energy-dense lithium-ion batteries will use to sustain night-time flying.
Operating through darkness will be particularly important when the men have to cross the Pacific and the Atlantic.
The slow speed of their prop-driven plane means these legs will take several days and nights of non-stop flying to complete.
Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg – whoever is at the controls – will have to stay alert for nearly all of the time they are airborne.
They will be permitted only catnaps of up to 20 minutes – in the same way a single-handed, round-the-world yachtsman would catch small periods of sleep.
They will also have to endure the physical discomfort of being confined in a cockpit that measures just 3.8 cubic meters in volume – not a lot bigger than a public telephone box.
Flight simulators have helped the pilots to prepare, and each man has developed his own regimen to cope.
Andre Borschberg will use yoga to try to stay fresh. Bertrand Piccard is using self-hypnosis techniques.
The support team is well drilled. While the mission will be run out of a control room in Monaco, a group of engineers will follow the plane around the globe. They have a mobile hangar to house the plane when it is not in the air.
The Solar Impulse 2 plane has made its inaugural flight.
The solar-powered plane will be taken on a round-the-world journey in 2015.
The Solar Impulse 2 vehicle lifted off from Payerne airfield in Switzerland at just after 03:35 GMT, returning two hours later.
It is a larger, upgraded version of the aircraft that flew across America last year with adventurers Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg at the controls.
For this maiden flight, test pilot Markus Scherdel was in the cockpit.
He climbed to just under 6,000ft, conducting a number of maneuvers to prove the handling of the aircraft.
The Solar Impulse 2 vehicle lifted off from Payerne airfield in Switzerland at just after 03.35 GMT, returning two hours later (photo Reuters)
Markus Scherdel reported some early vibrations, but overall the mission outcome appeared very positive.
“The initial results are in line with calculations and simulations,” read a later statement from the team.
Further flights will be conducted in the coming months in order for the experimental machine to attain certification.
The carbon-fiber aircraft has a huge wingspan, which at 72m is wider than a Boeing 747 jet. And yet, the vehicle weighs only 2.3 tonnes.
The tops of the wings are covered by 17,000 solar cells, which drive four brushless electric motors at speeds of up to 90mph.
During the day, the solar cells will recharge lithium batteries, which can then be used to keep the plane’s propellers turning through the night.
The first Solar Impulse plane set a number of world records, including the longest manned solar-powered flight at 26 hours, the first inter-continental flight in a solar-powered plane, and the greatest distance covered on a piloted solar-powered flight. (Autonomous solar-powered drones can stay aloft for weeks).
That last record was set during Bertrand Piccard’s and Andre Borschberg’s epic TransAmerica journey in May, June and July last year.
But as challenging as that effort was, it will be dwarfed by the difficulty and complexity of completing a global flight.
This is because it will have to include passage across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The latter could take all of five days and nights to complete.
Only one pilot can fit in the cockpit. It has a reclining seat to make room for exercising and to permit Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, whoever is at the controls, to take short catnaps.
Solar Impulse plane, which is powered only by the Sun, has completed the first leg of a journey that aims to cross the US after landing in Arizona.
Solar Impulse took off at dawn from San Francisco, California, on Friday and landed in Phoenix, Arizona, some 18 hours later.
The craft will stop over in Dallas, St Louis, Washington DC and New York in the coming weeks.
Solar Impulse plane has the same wingspan as an Airbus A340 but it weighs just 1.6 tonnes.
It has already made a day-and-night flight lasting more than 26 hours, and the team aims to eventually circumnavigate the globe in 2015.
Solar Impulse plane, which is powered only by the Sun, has completed the first leg of a journey that aims to cross the US after landing in Arizona
The plane took off from Moffett Field on the edge of San Francisco Bay at 06:12 local time on Friday, and landed at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport at 00:30 local time on Saturday.
This meant Solar Impulse spent several hours flying in darkness, relying solely on the energy stored in an array of lithium-ion batteries to drive its propellers.
In daylight hours, these are charged by nearly 12,000 solar cells that cover the craft’s wings and stabilizer.
The HB-SIA craft was piloted by Bertrand Piccard, a co-founder of the effort, who is perhaps best known for being the first person to circumnavigate the globe in a hot-air balloon, in 1999.
The trans-America bid is the first attempt of its kind with a zero-fuel aircraft.
Together with co-founder and entrepreneur Andre Borschberg, the pair of Swiss pilots have racked up a number of world records and milestones in recent years.
The first night flight of a solar-powered craft in 2010 was followed by a first international flight in 2011, and first inter-continental flight in 2012.
The two will share the job of flying the plane between each of the stops of the tour.
“We’ve been preparing for this flight since last summer, so we are all very excited,” Andre Borschberg said.
The current aircraft HB-SIA is effectively the prototype for the craft that will eventually be used for transoceanic flights and the round-the-world trip. The HB-SIB should be completed by the end of 2013.
“You should see this like being in 1915 when the pioneers were trying to do these first cross-country flights – still unable to cross the ocean, but an important step for the development of aviation,” Andre Borschberg said.
The launch on Friday served as the start of the pair’s Clean Generation Initiative, an effort to encourage policy-makers and businesses to develop and adopt sustainable energy technologies.
“We want to show that with clean technologies, a passionate team and a far-reaching pioneering vision, one can achieve the impossible,” Dr. Bertrand Piccard said at the announcement of the mission in March.
Solar Impulse, a solar-powered plane, has landed in Rabat, Morocco, after flying from Spain, completing the second leg of its pioneering journey.
Pilot Bertrand Piccard landed the Solar Impulse in Rabat, 19 hours after taking off from Madrid.
The plane – the size of a jumbo jet – was powered by 12,000 solar cells turning four electrical motors.
The 2,500 km-trip (1,550 miles), begun in Switzerland in May, is described as a rehearsal for a world tour in 2014 .
Solar Impulse, a solar-powered plane, has landed in Rabat, Morocco, after flying from Spain, completing the second leg of its pioneering journey
Made of carbon fibre, Solar Impulse is the size of an Airbus A340 but only weighs as much as an average family car, according to its creators.
People were able to follow the aircraft’s flight progress via a virtual dashboard on Solar Impulse’s website, which showed the plane’s battery status, altitude and speed.
Bertrand Piccard was also posting live updates of his journey on Twitter (@bertrandpiccard). In one of his tweets, the former balloonist described the “great feeling” of gliding across southern European skies with solar-powered engines.
The Solar Impulse project was launched in 2003 by Bertrand Piccard and Swiss pilot Andre Boschberg who flew the first leg of the journey from Switzerland to Madrid in late May.
The aircraft made history in July 2010 when it became the first manned solar plane to complete a 26-hour nonstop flight.
The landmark flight proved that the sun’s energy was enough to keep the plane in the air, even at night.
The organizers now hope to go on a round-the-world tour with a new and improved Solar Impulse model in 2014.
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