Solar Impulse 2, piloted by André Borschberg has successfully completed its record-breaking solar-powered flight from Japan to Hawaii. The plane landed at 5:55am local time today, and was met with a traditional Hawaiian welcome reception, leis included. With this landing, the Swiss-based Solar Impulse team has proven what is possible in the realm of zero fuel transportation. This leg of the round-the-world attempt marks an exciting landmark in the timeline of renewable energy production.
The experimental solar-powered aircraft landed at Kalaeloa airport near Honolulu, HI after five straight days and nights in the air. Yesterday, Solar Impulse secured the new world record for longest solo flight, when Borschberg racked up over 80 hours in the sky. The previous record was held by American adventurer Steve Fossett, who piloted a Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer in 2006 for 76 consecutive hours, also in his attempt to circumnavigate the globe. Upon landing, Borschberg logged 118 hours of solo flight and 8874 km (5,514 mi) making the new world record quite formidable for future challengers.
“The first 24 hours were very technical”, said Borschberg, “but the second day was really getting me into the mission. It took me a while to create a relationship of trust with the airplane, which allows me to rest and eventually sleep by periods of 20 minutes with the autopilot. The experience of flight is so intense that I can only focus on the present moment and discover how to deal with my own energy and mindset.”
After sitting in a cramped cockpit for five days and nights, Borschberg was met with a massage therapist, who used massage and accupressure on the pilot’s legs for several minutes before he was allowed to stand and exit the cockpit. When seated for so long, the blood lowers the blood pressure in the extremities to avoid blood clots, so Borschberg had to slowly recondition himself to being in a standing position. The crowd roared when he did, though, as he and cofounder Bertrand Piccard stood on the platform next to the solar airplane’s cockpit, donning traditional Hawaiian leis around their necks. Borschberg lifted an enormous bottle of champagne in the air as the two Swiss men smiled and waved to onlookers, proud of their new world records and the culmination of 12 years of combined efforts.
Piccard said Borschberg’s accomplishment is the “most extraordinary flight you can make” while Borschberg said the first thing he wanted to do after talking with the press is “take a shower,” lamenting at the lack of bathroom facilities in the single-seater aircraft. He also said that being alone in the plane for five days and nights was like “a special retreat” and he felt disappointed when it came time to land.
Images via Solar Impulse