Technology & Science

Solar Impulse 2 lands in Hawaii after record 5-day journey

A solar-powered plane that left central Japan on Monday landed in Hawaii after a five-day journey on the longest leg so far of its attempt to circumnavigate the globe without fuel.

Pilot André Borschberg: 'It was like a retreat…I was disappointed that the flight was already over'

Steve D’Souza reports on the historic 117-hour flight by Solar Impulse 2:43

A solar-powered plane that left central Japan on Monday landed in Hawaii after a five-day journey on the longest leg so far of its attempt to circumnavigate the globe without fuel.

Pilot André Borschberg landed the Solar Impulse 2 shortly before noon ET today, having set a new world record for the longest solo non-stop flight.

The plane taxied to a standstill on the tarmac, where Borschberg, still seated, received leg massages before attempting to stand up after five days in his captain's chair.

"So much joy, you know. So much good feeling," he said after finally rising, to cheers from the crowd, and exiting the cockpit. "We knew that crossing the ocean was the challenge."

He was greeted by a slew of Hawaiian dignitaries, media and members of the flight team.

"A flight that many thought would not be possible," said an announcer during Solar Impulse's live broadcast of the landing as the control room erupted into a standing ovation.

The flight lasted about 118 hours and spanned more than 8,200 kilometres. The previous longest non-stop solo flight lasted 76 hours, 45 minutes in 2006.

Borschberg and Swiss compatriot Bertrand Piccard are taking turns flying legs of the plane's round-the-world journey. Piccard was in Hawaii to welcome his colleague.

Both pilots have endured the cramped quarters on the plane, which has no room to stand.

"It was like a retreat," said Borschberg of the cockpit's conditions. If needed, Borschberg said, he absolutely could have travelled farther in the small plane.

"I was disappointed that the flight was already over," he said, recalling his thoughts as he approached Hawaii.

The cockpit has a multi-purpose seat that fully reclines and serves as the on-board toilet. The adjustable seat lets the men practise yoga and meditation.

During the flight, Borschberg rested for 20-minute stretches. He also used self-hypnosis and meditation techniques to remain vigilant during the long flight, and took pills to prevent blood clots.

Borschberg was equipped with 25 litres of water and 18 rations of food. Organizers estimated that during each day of the solar flight the pilot would need 2.4 kilograms of food, 2.5 litres of water and one litre of a sports drink.

17,000 solar cells power plane

The plane is powered by more than 17,000 solar cells on its wings that recharge its batteries. During the night, the plane's solar cells no longer collect energy, so its engines run on battery power alone.

Solar Impulse 2 has already completed seven legs of its journey, travelling from Abu Dhabi to Nagoya and covering nearly 9,000 kilometres before this ambitious most recent trip. After it lands in Hawaii, the plane will later fly through the U.S. and Europe before arriving back in Abu Dhabi.

Its next scheduled destination is Phoenix, Ariz., though it is unclear when the plane will take off for the next leg of its journey.

The project is meant to demonstrate the potential of improved energy efficiency and clean power, though solar-powered air travel is not yet commercially practical.

The Solar Impulse began its round-the-world flight on March 9, 2015, in Abu Dhabi. (Reuters)

With files from The Associated Press

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