The world watched as Solar Impulse 2 (SI2) landed in India on March 10, marking the first time a solar-powered aircraft has landed in the Asian country, as well as setting the world record for the longest solar-powered flight to date. This is the second stop of twelve on the zero-fuel aircraft’s record-breaking trip around the globe, which began on March 9 in Abu Dhabi. The city of Ahmedabad plays host to the vessel for four days, as the crew prepares to take off again for the third leg of their historical journey.
Swiss pilots and businessmen Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg are SI2’s cofounders and they will take turns piloting the craft from city to city. The circumnavigational mission is just as much an attempt to make world records as it is to spread their message about clean technologies.
Powered entirely by sunlight, the SI2 is capable of making quite lengthy trips, but many parts of the around-the-world trip will be short, giving the crew opportunities to work out any kinks with the aircraft before the longer and more dangerous stretches begin. After launching from Abu Dhabi on Monday, piloted by Piccard, SI2 made its first successful landing in Muscat, in the Sultanate of Oman.
SI2 will launch from Ahmedabad en route to Varanasi, India, a journey that will take the sun-powered airplane about 1071km (578NM). That leg of the flight will last approximately 15 hours. From there, the plane will travel to Myanmar and China before embarking on the longest leg of the trip: the five-day-five-night 8,500km (5,270 mi) trip across the Pacific Ocean. SI2 will make three stops across the United States, cross the Atlantic Ocean, touch down in either southern Europe of North Africa, before coming full circle—or rather, full sphere—to land in Abu Dhabi.
In a nod to the ancient traditions of India, Borschberg used yoga on his flight to Ahmedabad to avoid stiffness from being confined in the tight space of the cockpit. The pilot of the next leg of the journey hasn’t been named as of the time of writing, but it will likely be Piccard’s turn to man the vessel, as the plan has the two taking turns throughout the adventure.
Images via Solar Impulse