Solar Impulse 2 lands in Hawaii

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Solar Impulse 2 with André Borschberg on the controls is about to land on Kalaeloa Airport(Credit: Solar Impulse)

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Solar Impulse 2 has landed in Hawaii after completing its record-breaking longest leg of the Round the World Solar Flight, that began last March in Abu Dhabi. With pilot André Borschberg at the controls, the solar-powered, single-pilot aircraft touched down today at Kalaeloa Airport just west of Honolulu on the island of Oahu at 5:55 HAST (15:55 GMT).

Today's landing ends the eighth leg of the Solar Impulse 2 circumnavigation flight. After leaving Nagoya, Japan on June 29, Solar Impulse 2 was in the air for five consecutive days and nights with Borschberg subsisting on catnaps of 5 to 20 minutes at a time. The aircraft covered 4,480 mi (7.209 km) as it broke endurance records for distance and duration for a solar-powered aircraft, as well as setting a new record for the longest-ever solo flight with a time of 117 hours and 52 minutes. It reached an altitude of 8,634 m (28,000 ft) and a cruising speed of 61.19 km/h (38.02 mph).

With its 72-m (236-ft) wingspan, the Solar Impulse 2 is wider than a Boeing 747-8I, but weighs only about 2,300 kg (5,070 lb). It’s made out of carbon fiber, employing a light single-ply technology used in competitive yachting, making it three times lighter than paper. Its four electric motors are powered by 17,248 solar cells 135 microns thick built into the wing and protected by a fluorine copolymer film, which feed banks of high-density lithium polymer batteries weighing 633 kg (1,395 lb). In flight, the plane is charged by the Sun during the day and powered by batteries at night for "virtually unlimited autonomy" and an average speed of 50 to 100 km/h (31 to 62 mph).

"I feel exhilarated by this extraordinary journey," says Borschberg. "I have climbed the equivalent altitude of Mount Everest five times without much rest. The team at the Mission Control Center in Monaco (MCC) was my eyes and my ears … The MCC was battling to give me the possibility to rest and recover, but also maximizing the aircraft’s energy levels and sending me trajectories and flight strategies simulated by computer. This successfully validates the vision that my partner Bertrand Piccard had after his round-the-world balloon flight to reach unlimited endurance in an airplane without fuel."

The next leg of the flight will take Solar Impulse 2 to the US mainland.

A live feed of the flight can be viewed on the Solar Impulse YouTube channel.

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