A solar-powered plane has landed in California, completing a risky, three-day flight across the Pacific as part of its journey around the world.
Pilot Bertrand Piccard landed the Solar Impulse 2 in Mountain View, in the Silicon Valley south of San Francisco, at 11.45pm Saturday local time, following a 62-hour, non-stop solo flight without fuel.
The plane taxied into a huge tent erected on Moffett Airfield where Piccard was greeted by the project’s team.
“You know, there was a moment in the night, I was watching the reflection of the moon on the ocean and I was thinking ‘I’m completely alone in this tiny cockpit and I feel completely confident’. And I was really thankful to life for bringing me this experience,” Piccard said.
The landing came several hours after Piccard performed a fly-past over the Golden Gate Bridge as spectators watched the narrow aircraft with extra wide wings from below.
Piccard and fellow Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg have been taking turns flying the plane on an around-the-world trip since taking off from Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, in March 2015. It made stops in Oman, Burma, China, Japan and Hawaii.
The trans-Pacific leg was the riskiest part of the plane’s global travels because of the lack of emergency landing sites.
The plane’s ideal flight speed is about 28mph, though that can double during the day when the sun’s rays are strongest. The carbon-fibre aircraft weighs more than 5,000lbs, or about as much as a mid-size truck.
The plane’s wings, which stretch wider than those of a Boeing 747, are equipped with 17,000 solar cells that power propellers and charge batteries. The plane runs on stored energy at night.
Solar Impulse 2 will make three more stops in the United States before crossing the Atlantic to Europe or northern Africa, according to the website documenting the journey.
The project, which began in 2002 and is estimated to cost more than £69 million, is meant to highlight the importance of renewable energy and the spirit of innovation.
Solar-powered air travel is not yet commercially practical, however, given the slow travel time, weather and weight constraints of the aircraft.
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