One of the most important flights across the Pacific Ocean has just concluded, and it just may usher in a new era in air travel. Just before midnight, a solar-powered plane completed a two and a half day flight from Hawaii to Mountain View, California (after a previous flight from Japan to Hawaii), all without using a single drop of fuel. Just before midnight in Mountain View, California’s local time, history was made.
“It’s a new era. It’s not science fiction. It’s today,” Swiss explorer and psychiatrist Bertrand Piccard, who piloted the Solar Impulse 2 told CNN shortly after landing. “It exists and clean technologies can do the impossible.”
It’s not just the Pacific Ocean that Piccard and his co-pilot conquered — rather, the sleek Solar Impulse 2, which boasts the wingspan of a Boeing 747 with the weight of just an SUV, is making its way around the world. And despite using only clean, renewable energy, it’s planning on taking a bit less than Jules Verne’s 80 days. Well — that’s not entirely true. Piccard and co-pilot Andre Borschberg were previously grounded for nine months because their plane’s battery died and the winter months provided insufficient sunlight for the trip. But in terms of actual travel time, they should still do a bit better than the steamers of the 19th century.
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The Pacific leg is the ninth of the trip, and the duo is planning on a few more trips before it makes its final landing in Abu Dhabi of the United Arab Emirates. If all goes according to plan, the Solar Impulse 2 will make a couple stop in the Midwest before making its way to New York City in June, where it will make final preparations for its journey across the Atlantic and Mediterranean.
The historic flight has already broken a number of records. In addition to the impressive claim of being 100 percent solar powered, Borschberg previously set the record for the longest continuous solo flight in the world when the team made it from Japan to Hawaii. That flight took four days, 21 hours, and 52 minutes.
So stay tuned, friends. This is one story who’s ending you won’t want to miss.