Solar plane smashes solo flight record over Pacific

Solar Impulse 2, lands in Hawaii after record-breaking five-day journey across Pacific Ocean from Japan.

Solar Impulse takes-off from Nagoya to Hawaii
The Solar Impulse 2 also hopes to break records for the longest distance flown by an aircraft powered only by the sun [EPA]

An aircraft has succeeded in circumnavigating the globe powered only by the sun’s energy, breaking a world record for the longest non-stop solo flight.

The Solar Impulse 2, which took off from Japan on Monday on the seventh leg of its journey, has shattered the solo-flight record threshold of 76 hours while crossing the Pacific.

The plane, which has a wingspan bigger than a jumbo jet, landed in Hawaii on Friday.

Solar Impulse 2, piloted alternatively by Swiss explorers Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, set off on its 35,000km journey around the world from Abu Dhabi on March 9.

Pacific solar flight ‘a risky project’

“Can you imagine that a solar powered airplane without fuel can now fly longer than a jet plane!” said Piccard in a statement. “This is a clear message that clean technologies can achieve impossible goals.”

Since leaving Abu Dhabi, Solar Impulse 2 has flown seven legs of 13 in an attempt to be the first single manned solar-powered plane to fly around the world.

The plane is powered entirely by the 17,248 solar panels on its wings.

The five-day leg from Japan to Hawaii was regarded as the most challenging part of the journey.

“If we did a five-day flight across a continent and we encountered any problems – be it weather, operational issues, there’s an alternate airport we can land,” Gregory Blatt, the project’s managing director, told Al Jazeera.

“Crossing the Pacific, there is no alternate airport so that’s what keeps me up at night, that’s what keeps up the teams, the engineers, the pilots. This is a first ever – are we going to be able to make it?”

If successful, the 120-plus hour flight to Hawaii will also break records for the longest distance flown by a aircraft powered only by the sun.

Live video from the cockpit of the plane was broadcast on YouTube and showed pilot André Borschberg wearing an oxygen mask and thick flight clothes to protect him from the cold.

Source: Al Jazeera, Reuters