Solar Impulse 2 has become the first sun-powered, fuel-free aircraft to circle the globe. Pilot Bertrand Piccard was at the controls as the aircraft returned to Abu Dhabi after completing a 42,000 kilometer journey.
The aircraft took off on its final leg from Cairo on Sunday and during the flight, UN Secretary General Ban-Ki moon told Piccard in a live-streamed conversation: “My deepest admiration and respect for your courage,” and added: “This is a historic day not only for you but for humanity.”
Piccard and his compatriot Andre Borschberg took turns to fly the solo-seater plane on the stages of the flight across Asia, North America, Europe and North Africa.
Throughout the voyage the pilots have been in constant contact with the project’s mission control in Monaco as experts for weather, mathematics and engineers have monitored the route and conditions for the pilots who have had to withstand temperatures as low as minus 20 degrees Celsius and as high as 35 degrees Celsius.
The weight of a car with the wingspan of a Boeing 747, the four-engine battery-powered aircraft relies on 17,000 solar cells embedded in its broad wings. Its light weight makes it particularly sensitive to turbulence.
Piccard has said he launched the project in 2003 to show that renewable energy “can achieve the impossible.”
jm/kl (Reuters, AFP)