KAPOLEI, Hawaii (KRON/AP) — A plane powered by the sun has finished a historic five-day journey from Japan to Hawaii, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with solar technology.
Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg on Friday landed his single-seat aircraft at Kalaeloa, a small airport near Honolulu. Borschberg’s trans-Pacific, 120-hour voyage from Nagoya, Japan broke the record for the world’s longest nonstop solo flight, his team said. The previous record was a 76-hour flight set by late U.S. adventurer Steve Fossett, who flew a specially-designed jet around the globe in 2006.
But Borschberg flew the Solar Impulse 2 without fuel. The aircraft’s wings were equipped with 17,000 solar cells that charged batteries. At night, the plane ran on stored energy.
The plane’s ideal flight speed is about 28 mph though that can double during the day when sun’s rays are strongest. The carbon-fiber aircraft weighs more than 5,000 pounds or about as much as a minivan or mid-sized truck.
Borschberg says during the five-day flight, he took naps and practiced yoga to cope with the long hours.
“Yoga is a huge support for this flight above the Pacific: it positively affects my mood and mindset,” he wrote in a tweet from the plane on Thursday.
Borschberg and his co-pilot Bertrand Piccard have been taking turns flying the plane on an around-the-world trip since taking off from Abu Dhabi in March. After Hawaii, the plane is headed for Phoenix and then it’s scheduled to fly to New York.
The project began in 2002. It’s estimated to cost more than $100 million and aims to highlight the importance of renewable energy and the spirit of innovation, according to project officials. Solar-powered air travel is not yet commercially practical, however, given the slow travel time, weather and weight constraints of the aircraft.
The plane is visiting Hawaii just as the state has embarked on its own ambitious clean energy project. Hawaii’s Gov. David Ige signed an aggressive legislation last month directing the state’s utilities to generate 100 percent of their electricity from renewable energy resources by 2045. The utilities currently get 21 percent of their power from renewable sources.