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Solar Impulse arrives in SpainSolar Impulse arrives in Spain

Atlantic Ocean crossed in 71 hours

Solar Impulse 2 arrived at Seville International Airport June 23, after a three-day crossing of the final major ocean along its route around the world promoting clean energy. While turbulence over the Azores cut short Bertrand Piccard's sleep schedule, favorable winds pushed the aircraft ahead of the projected schedule.
Solar Impulse 2 arrives at Seville International Airport June 23. Photo courtesy of Solar Impulse.

Departing New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport June 20 to follow a trail blazed by aviation pioneers in decades past, Piccard, the project initiator and co-founder, and the team had anticipated a journey of 90 to 110 hours, but landed just 71 hours and eight minutes after launch. The aircraft covered 4,203 miles on the power of the sun alone (stored for overnight use in 5,000 pounds of batteries).

“The Atlantic has always revealed the transitions between the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ worlds. But while theses worlds used to be geographical continents, today they are states of mind. The ‘old’ world is the world of inefficient polluting devices, depleting the Earth’s resources. The ‘new’ world is the world of modern clean technologies that can halve our global energy consumption, save natural resources and improve our quality of life,” Piccard said in a press release. “With this transatlantic flight our aim is to inspire the adoption of clean technologies everywhere.”

The Atlantic Ocean was arguably the last major challenge on the record-setting voyage. Co-founder André Borschberg flew Solar Impulse 2 on its longest leg, spanning five days and nights without a pause between Japan and Hawaii, demonstrating that the aircraft powered by more than 17,000 solar cells can fly perpetually, even if the pilot eventually needs a break.

“Initially the aviation industry told us it was impossible to build such an airplane, but we believed we could do it thanks to all our partners’ technologies. Last year we showed that it could fly almost perpetually, and now we confirmed it with the transatlantic flight, proving again that change is possible when we have the right mindset and are not afraid to push back our own limits,” Borschberg said in a news release.

Solar Impulse has faced its share of challenges, notably a months-long delay in Hawaii as engineers repaired and modified the “flying smart grid” that powers the four motors. Batteries overheated during the Pacific Ocean crossing, but subsequent flights to California, and across the United States, were free of reported technical issues.

The transatlantic leg of the journey saw Solar Impulse 2 average 59 mph, a higher speed over the water than previous legs, with a maximum altitude of 28,000 feet, the team reported. The timetable of the remaining leg (or legs) back to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, has not yet been released. The journey can be followed online through the team website, which includes links to real-time flight tracking, social media, and an email signup for flight alerts.

Jim Moore

Jim Moore

Editor-Web
Editor-Web Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot who enjoys competition aerobatics.
Topics: Aircraft, Experimental, Pilots

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