History was made in the early hours of Tuesday morning in Abu Dhabi, as the world’s first round-the-world flight powered by the sun finally ended.
Solar Impulse touched down in the UAE on its 17th and final leg after a short flight from Cairo, concluding a 42,000 kilometre journey that saw it cross two oceans, three seas and four continents.
“The future is clean. The future is you. The future is now. Let’s take it further,” pilot Bertrand Piccard said after landing the plane, which weighs 2.3 tonnes and is 72 metres wide.
The adventure started last March, but was cut short after damage to a battery pack over the Pacific forced engineers to spend 10 months fixing the plane.
The weight of an average car, Solar Impulse is powered by 17,000 solar cells across its wings. The plane flies high during the day and gradually descends at night.
Piccard and Andre Borschberg took turns piloting the flight on alternate legs. The longest trip was between Japan and Hawaii, lasting nearly five days. The shortest was leg 14, Pennsylvania to New York.
In a cockpit the size of a telephone box, the pilots had little space to relax. Their seat was a loo, sofa and toilet.
On the ground a team of 90 made up of 30 engineers, 25 technicians and 22 navigation controllers supported the mission.
The pilots hope their feat will inspire investment in clean energy. “If governments had the courage to promote clean technologies on a massive scale, our society could simultaneously reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, create jobs and stimulate sustainable growth,” said Piccard.