Landing safely in Hawaii on Friday (July 3), the Swiss aircraft Solar Impulse 2, as piloted by André Borschberg, has set a world record for the longest solar-powered flight by time, longest solar-powered flight by distance and the longest solo flight by time.
Flying nonstop from Nagoya, Japan to Kalaeloa Airport in Hawaii, the single-seater aircraft landed at 5:55 a.m. local time (3:55 p.m. GMT; 4:55 p.m. BST). The event was live streamed on Solar Impulse’s website.
This record-breaking voyage marks the 8th of 13 planned journeys around the world for the Swiss venture Solar Impulse, co-founded by André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard. They have been taking turns in piloting the plane.
— André Borschberg (@andreborschberg) July 3, 2015
By achieving the world record for longest time, Borschberg has taken the place of American pilot Steve Fossett, who spent 76 hours airborne in a single-seater jet in 2006.
Borschberg and Piccard reunited. Solar Impulse.
"I feel exhilarated by this extraordinary journey. I have climbed the equivalent altitude of Mount Everest five times without much rest," Borschberg later said in a statement.
Between the Japanese site and its Hawaiian destination, Solar Impulse 2 covered an astonishing 7,200 kilometers (4,500 miles) in 118 hours. As there was no landing port for the plane to call into if it ran aground, this path is regarded as one of the most dangerous.
"What André has achieved is extraordinary from the perspective of a pilot," said Piccard, speaking to CNET. "But furthermore, he has also led the technical team during the construction of this revolutionary prototype. It is not only a historic first in aviation, it is also a historic first for renewable energies."
The Solar Impulse is entirely fueled by solar power. The aircraft’s wingspan is 72 meters (236 feet). Because it is made of carbon fiber, the aircraft weighs less than 2,300 kilograms (5,070 pounds).
There are wider applications for the actual mission of Solar Impulse, hoping to bring zero-fuel flight to the forefront of environmental discussion. While there are currently no solar-powered airplanes in use by any major flight industries at the moment, the Solar Impulse 2 does present a legitimate alternative.
The next leg for Solar Impulse 2 sees Piccard fly to Phoenix, Arizona. The mission will continue to New York and Europe before heading to Abu Dhabi where it all began in March this year.