To the squeal of bagpipes and the beating of drums, Solar Impulse 2 today completed its round-the-world voyage right back where it began in Abu Dhabi. At 8:05 pm EDT (July 26 00:05 GMT), the single-seater experimental aircraft alighted on the tarmac of Al Bateen Executive Airport outside the capital of the United Arab Emirates with Bertrand Piccard at the controls, bringing to an end the historic solar-powered voyage.
The 17th and final leg of the historic first solar-powered circumnavigation began from Cairo International Airport on July 23 at 23:28 GMT after a slight delay due to bad weather and pilot illness. Covering 1,471 mi (2,368 mi) in regional summer heat that was on the design edge for the aircraft's systems, Solar Impulse 2 closed the circle and returned to the place where it all started in March 2015. As the plane landed and taxied to a halt, an army band played a song of welcome while men in traditional garb held aloft a gigantic UAE flag.
UPGRADE TO NEW ATLAS PLUS
More than 1,200 New Atlas Plus subscribers directly support our journalism, and get access to our premium ad-free site and email newsletter. Join them for just US$19 a year.UPGRADE
Previous legs of the journey took Piccard and his alternative pilot and Solar Impulse co-founder Andre Borschberg over India, China, the Pacific Ocean, the continental US, the Atlantic Ocean, Europe, and the Mediterranean as it set a string of solar-flight records. The 23-day circumnavigation of the globe saw the aircraft travel 43,041 km (26,744 mi) over 17 legs, all without a drop of fuel.
"This is a historic day for Captain Piccard and the Solar Impulse team, but it is also a historic day for humanity," said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a call to Piccard in the cockpit of SOlar Impulse 2 a few hours before landing. "You may be ending your around the world flight today, but the journey to a more sustainable world is just beginning. The Solar Impulse team is helping to pilot us to that future."
The historic landing can be seen in the video below (skip to the 1 hour 35 minute mark to see the landing).
Source: Solar Impulse