California — A solar-powered airplane landed in California on Saturday, completing a risky, three-day flight across the Pacific Ocean as part of its journey around the world.
Pilot Bertrand Piccard landed the Solar Impulse 2 in Mountain View, in the Silicon Valley south of San Francisco, at 11:45pm following a 62-hour, nonstop solo flight without fuel. The plane taxied into a huge tent erected on Moffett Airfield where Piccard was greeted by project's team.
The landing came several hours after the Piccard performed a fly-by over the Golden Gate Bridge as spectators watched the narrow aircraft with extra wide wings from below.
"I crossed the bridge. I am officially in America," he declared as he took in spectacular views of San Francisco Bay.
Piccard and fellow Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg have been taking turns flying the plane on an around-the-world trip since taking off from Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, in March 2015. It made stops in Oman, Myanmar, China, Japan and Hawaii.
The trans-Pacific leg was the riskiest part of the plane's global travels because of the lack of emergency landing sites.
The aircraft faced a few bumps along the way.
The Solar Impulse 2 landed in Hawaii in July and was forced to stay in the islands after the plane's battery system sustained heat damage on its trip from Japan. The team was delayed in Asia, as well. When first attempting to fly from Nanjing, China, to Hawaii, the crew had to divert to Japan because of unfavorable weather and a damaged wing.
A month later, when weather conditions were right, the plane departed from Nagoya in central Japan for Hawaii.
The plane's ideal flight speed is about 28 mph, though that can double during the day when the sun's rays are strongest. The carbon-fiber aircraft weighs more than 5 000 pounds, or about as much as a midsize truck.
The plane's wings, which stretch wider than those of a Boeing 747, are equipped with 17 000 solar cells that power propellers and charge batteries. The plane runs on stored energy at night.
Solar Impulse 2 will make three more stops in the United States before crossing the Atlantic Ocean to Europe or Northern Africa, according to the website documenting the journey.
The project, which began in 2002 and is estimated to cost more than $100 million, is meant to highlight the importance of renewable energy and the spirit of innovation. Solar-powered air travel is not yet commercially practical, however, given the slow travel time, weather and weight constraints of the aircraft.
Take a look at these rather awe-inspiring shots of a plane flying around the world without any fuel - #FutureISClean
Perpetual solar powered flight: Solar Impulse is the only airplane of perpetual endurance, able to fly day and night on solar power, without a drop of fuel.
Intense challenges: Solar Impulse started its journey last March in Abu Dhabi. The plane gets all its energy from the sun, and has 17,000 photovoltaic cells on its top surfaces. Low speed means mission legs can take several days and nights of continuous flight, with the pilot only allowed 20-minute catnaps, and speding days in cockpit little bigger than a public telephone box.
On top of the world for a clean future: Bertrand Piccard spoke with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon directly from the cockpit of Solar Impulse 2 as 75 nations signed the Paris Agreement on
Climate Change on Friday. “You know, Mr Secretary-General, what you are doing today in New York by signing the Paris Agreement is more than protecting the environment – it is the launch of the clean revolution,” said Piccard from the solar airplane that is currently flying over the Pacific Ocean without using a single drop of fuel. He urged Ban Ki-moon and the delegates to keep working hard to overcome resistance to fighting climate change. “If an airplane like Solar Impulse 2 can fly day and night without fuel, the world can be much cleaner.”
Hitting cruise control for a energy-safe world - Its wingspan is longer than a jumbo jet but its weight is roughly the same as a car thanks to its light construction. " f an airplane has succeeded to fly day and night without fuel, then we can power our world on clean energy." - Bertrand Piccard
Inspiring generations: "The problem with our society is that, despite all the grand talk about sustainable development, we are a long way from making use of the clean technologies that are already available to us. Those solutions bring opportunities to create jobs, make profit, sustain the growth of the industry, and at the same time protect the environment." - Bertrand Piccard
Is this what the future of flights is going to look like? The record breaking solo flight of 5 days and 5 nights without fuel from Nagoya to Hawaii gives a clear message: everybody could use the same technologies on the ground to halve our world’s energy consumption, save natural resources and improve our quality of life.
"The question now is not so much whether humans can go even further afield and populate other planets, but rather how to organize things so that life on Earth becomes more worthy of living." - Auguste Piccard, 1931