A solar-powered experimental aircraft has managed to get midway through its journey to circumnavigate the globe late on Monday, the project team announced. Solar Impulse 2 completed the trip from California to Arizona.
The grueling 16 hour trip from San Francisco across the Mojave Desert marked the tenth leg of the journey, which began in Abu Dhabi in March 2015.
The Swiss pilots tackling the flight are Andre Borschberg and Betrand Piccard. It was Borschberg who made this particular leg of the journey, as the spindly aircraft has room for only one seat.
It was "a beautiful flight" Borschberg said upon landing.
Borschberg was also the pilot for the Japan-to-Hawaii leg of the trip, during which he stayed airborne for 118 hours. This shattered the previous record of 76 hours set by Steve Fossett in 2006 with his Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer. The Solar Impulse paid a price for this feat, however, as the craft suffered some serious damage that forced it to remain grounded in Hawaii for nine months while repairs were carried out.
If Borschberg and Piccard can reach Abu Dhabi once more, they will have circled the globe without their plane using a single drop of fuel. Solar Impulse 2 contains four engines which are powered by the 17,000 solar cells built into its broad wings. The craft has the wingspan of a Boeing 747 but the weight of a family car, its speed is similar to that of the latter.
The Swiss pilots remained confident of success, having completed a similar goal in 2013 when they crossed the entire United States with an earlier version of the Solar Impulse.
es/msh (Reuters, AP)