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Round-the-world solar flight completed

Solar Impulse 2 completed the first ever round-the-world flight in a solar-powered aircraft July 25 with a landing in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, after a two-day, 37-minute flight from Cairo, Egypt.
Solar Impulse 2 approaches to land in Abu Dhabi, concluding its round-the-world solar-powered flight. Photo courtesy of Solar Impulse.
Solar Impulse 2 approaches to land in Abu Dhabi, concluding its round-the-world solar-powered flight. Photo courtesy of Solar Impulse.

The completion of the flight by a zero-emission aircraft capable of flying day and night without fuel proved that technological innovation “can achieve the impossible,” said the project team, promising to follow up by launching new projects “such as the development of solar-powered drones.”

The last leg of the 17-leg journey involving 21 days of flight landed just after 8 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time with Bertrand Piccard at the controls to conclude the adventure begun in Abu Dhabi in March 2015.

The concluding hours of flying the aircraft outfitted with 17,000 solar cells had at times been challenging because of weather as Piccard, the mission’s co-founder, made his way along the approximately 1,470-nautical-mile course.

“After confronting new flight conditions, including high temperatures, upward and downward drafts, and winds in the flight planning, the night was turbulent and it was difficult for Bertrand Piccard to sleep,” the team reported on its website.

Co-founder André Borschberg had flown the preceding flight leg from Spain to Cairo on July 13 as Piccard and Borschberg had alternated flight legs on the mission. On the occasion of the July 13 landing in Cairo, AOPA reported that Piccard’s vision of flying an airplane around the world on solar power to promote clean energy had originated in the Egyptian city after he completed a nonstop, round-the-world balloon flight there in 1999.

Last July the team suffered a serious setback when overheating batteries caused irreversible damage to some components, requiring months of repairs and test flights in Hawaii before Piccard could launch on what would be a 62-hour, 29-minute overwater flight to California. The leg was accomplished April 23 with a landing at Moffett Federal Airfield in Mountain View, California.

Solar Impulse posted a YouTube video of the final landing in Abu Dhabi on its website and added an online “logbook” entry to set out the team’s vision of how it plans to continue to advocate for clean energy innovation after accomplishing their “crazy dream” of the earthrounding flight.

“Beyond this historic milestone, the two Swiss pioneers will continue to urge the global implementation of energy efficient solutions through the creation of the International Committee for Clean Technologies and leverage the expertise and technology gained over the years in Solar Impulse by launching new innovative projects, such as the development of solar powered drones,” it said.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 35-year AOPA member.
Topics: Aircraft, Technology, International Travel

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