Solar plane glides past world record in 80-hour solo flight

The solar plane Solar Impulse 2 has broken the world records for distance and duration of solar aviation, flying continuously for more than 80 hours and travelling 6000 km across the Pacific.

Solar Impulse pilot and co-founder Andre Borschberg is also on course to complete the longest non-stop solo flight without refuelling.

Flying the plane between Japan and Hawaii, Borschberg has broken American adventurer Steve Fossett’s 76 hour flight on the Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer in 2006.

Borschberg has remained airborne for 3 days and nights on the plane which produces its own power through solar energy.

Solar Impulse 2’s round the world journey has lasted since March and the plane is expected to finish in Abu Dhabi in August. The plane can fly both day and night, powered purely by 17,000 solar cells installed on its wings.

The plane has completed 80% of its flight across the Pacific from Nagoya, Japan, to Honolulu, Hawaii, with this leg of the global flight expected to last around 120 hours.

Borschberg, who is flying solo in the unheated cockpit, said: “The first 24 hours were very technical, but the second day was really getting me into the mission.

“It took me a while to create a relationship of trust with the airplane, which allows me to rest and eventually sleep by periods of 20 minutes with the autopilot. The experience of flight is so intense that I can only focus on the present moment and discover how to deal with my own energy and mindset.”

The plane’s second pilot and chairman of Solar Impulse, Bertrand Piccard, said: “Can you imagine that a solar powered airplane without fuel can now fly longer than a jet plane. This is a clear message that clean technologies can achieve impossible goals.”

Bertrand will continue Solar Impulse 2’s flight from Hawaii to Phoenix Arizona.

Solar Impulse aims to promote the #FutureisClean initiative to encourage clean and renewable technologies around the world. 

Last month, business leaders and researchers called for a ‘global Apollo programme’ to advance renewable technologies.

Matt Field

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