Solar Impulse 2 has set a new world record for the longest non-stop solo flight. Landing in Hawaii Friday morning local time, the sun-powered plane, piloted by Andre Borschberg, stayed in the air for 118 hours on its epic journey from the Japanese city of Nagoya.
Borschberg’s flight across five days and five nights smashes the previous 76-hour record set by Steve Fossett in 2006 when he circumnavigated the globe in the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer.
Swiss-engineered Solar Impulse 2 has a wingspan of 72 meters (236 feet) – wider than that of a Boeing 747. More than 17,000 solar cells covering its wings power four electric motors to keep the 2,300-kg machine in the air. The ambitious project is designed to promote the use and development of green energy.
The zero-fuel aircraft, which is making its way around the world over the course of several months, began its journey in Abu Dhabi in March and has now completed 8 of 13 legs. Borschberg is taking turns with fellow Swiss national Bertrand Piccard to pilot the plane.
The mammoth flight from Japan to Hawaii will have been super tough – both physically and mentally – for Borschberg. The plane’s cockpit is just 3.8 cubic meters in size, and the need to keep a constant eye on the plane’s instruments means shut-eye will only have come in the form of occasional 20-minute naps. And then he had to land the thing.
Speaking about the unique aircraft in a National Geographic interview earlier this year, Piccard insisted the plane was special not because it’s powered by the sun, “but because it is efficient at harnessing energy, at storing energy, and at using energy.”
He added that he hopes the team’s mission to take the plane around the world will demonstrate the multitude of possibilities that its technology offers, technology he hopes will help to protect the environment and reduce dependency on fossil energy.
To find out more about Solar Impulse 2 or to see its current location as it makes its way around the world, check out the team’s website here.