Solar Impulse: zero-fuel plane completes round world trip
Posted on 26/07/2016

NewUnited Arab Emirates

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Early this morning, night the zero-fuel plane successfully completed its circumnavigation of the world - bringing an end to its 42,000-km journey.

The very first solar-powered plane to circumnavigate the globe landed successfully in the United Arab Emirates early this morning. Pilot Bertrand Piccard was at the controls of Solar Impulse 2 for the final leg of the trip as, having taken off late on Saturday night from the Egyptian capital of Cairo, the aircraft landed in Abu Dhabi at 1:05am BST this morning.

42,000 kilometres without fuel

42,000 kilometres without fuel

Solar Impulse has covered some 42,000km with a team of over 60 full-time support staff in its quest to become the first plane to circumnavigate the world using only energy from the sun to fuel it.

"The future is clean. The future is you. The future is now. Let's take it further," Mr Piccard said, arriving into Abu Dhabi to cheers and applause.

Piccard has alternated pilot duties with his good friend and business partner, André Borschberg, and together they have flown 17 segments to complete what has been a 17-year project for Piccard.

After becoming the first ever aviator to complete a non-stop, round-the-world flight in a balloon in 1999, Piccard vowed that "there had to be another way." His balloon only just made it, landing in the Egyptian desert with virtually no reserves left of the propane gas it had been using in burners to stay aloft.

With so many years of planning, the plane, which is wider than a 747 jumbo jet and yet weighs only 2.3 tonnes, began its world tour in March 2015.

It was originally hoped that the flight would be completed later that year but progress was not quick enough to make the most of the good weather in the Northern Hemisphere's summer.

To make matters worse, the battery was damaged on a monumental five-day and five-night passage over the western Pacific in June/July 2015 so the effort was put on hold for 10 months.

Breaking records at every turn

Breaking records at every turn

The circumnavigation flight represents the last of 19 official solar aviation records broken by the Solar Impulse project. To name a few, it has completed the first solar flight at night, the first intercontinental solar flight, the first solar plane ocean crossing, and set the record for the longest distance and duration for a solar flight.

Swiss pilot André Borschberg also broke the record for the longest-ever solo flight for any pilot in any aircraft, up in the air for more than 117 consecutive hours.

With all these phenomenal achievements, Piccard believes that airlines will be using solar planes within 10 years, speaking of short- to medium-haul flights carrying 50 passengers as a very real possibility within that timeframe.

"You can fly with no pollution and no noise - purely electric - and landing in urban airports, making no disturbance for the neighbours", he said.

"So, it will be a market for aviation and transport. And maybe sometimes people will say this all started with a crazy idea of flying around the world in a solar aeroplane, and the outcome was useful for everyone."

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