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Solar Impulse 2 breaks world record for longest non-stop solo flight, project team says

2015-07-13 10:42:49

A Swiss pilot has broken a world record for the longest non-stop solo flight across the globe in an aircraft powered only by solar energy, according to the project team.

Solar Impulse 2 departed Japan on Monday on the seventh leg of its journey and is expected to arrive in Hawaii early on Friday, shattering the solo-flight record threshold of 76 hours while crossing the Pacific.

The aircraft, piloted alternatively by Swiss explorers Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, set off on its 35,000-kilometre journey around the world from Abu Dhabi on March 9.

Mr Piccard said in a statement "can you imagine that a solar powered airplane without fuel can now fly longer than a jet plane!"

"This is a clear message that clean technologies can achieve impossible goals," Mr Piccard said.

The plane, which was piloted by Borschberg when it broke the record, weighs about as much as a family sedan and has 17,000 solar cells across its wingspan.

Overall, its trip around the globe was expected to take 25 flight days, broken into 12 legs at speeds between 50 and 100km per hour.

The plane was expected to land around sunrise on Friday at Hawaii's Kalaeloa Airport, a former military base, according to a website logging updates of the journey.


The Solar Impulse 2 initially left Nanjing, China, on May 31 for Hawaii, but was forced to cut short its bid a day later due to what Borschberg termed "a wall of clouds" over the Pacific.

Due to the bad weather, the aircraft landed in Nagoya, Japan.

The solo record was previously set in 2006 by American adventurer Steve Fossett, who flew the Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer for 76 continuous hours.

The pilots said Solar Impulse remained airborne three consecutive days and nights, producing its own power with solar energy.

Solar Impulse 2 is the first aircraft to fly day and night without any fuel, solely relying on the sun's energy.

Mr Borschberg navigates alone in an unheated and unpressurized cockpit, taking 20 minute naps while the aircraft is on autopilot.

The next leg of the flight will be from Honolulu to Phoenix, Arizona, and then Borschberg and Piccard will fly together across the Atlantic on a return path to Abu Dhabi.

The design, construction and studies took 12 years with the first version of the craft rolled out in 2009 breaking records for heights and distances travelled by a manned solar plane.

Mr Borschberg said in a statement that the flight experience was demanding.

"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," he said.

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