Solar Impulse 2 has broken the world record for solar flight, both in terms of duration and distance.
The solar-powered airplane has flown for over 80 hours, covering more than 5,660km as part of its attempt to complete the first round the world solar flight. André Borschberg who is piloting Solar Impulse 2 has also broken the record for the longest solo flight ever, superseding Steve Fossett’s previous record of 76 hours consecutive flight on the Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer.
Solar Impulse 2 is attempting to fly for 120 consecutive hours in order to complete its flight from Japan to Hawaii – all without refuelling.
Bertrand Piccard, chairman and previous pilot of Solar Impulse commented: “Can you imagine that a solar powered airplane without fuel can now fly longer than a jet plane? This is a clear message that clean technologies can achieve impossible goals.”
The world record attempt poses particular problems for Borschberg who faces both technical and physical challenges in the plane’s unheated and unpressurised cockpit.
He explained: “The first 24 hours were very technical but the second day was really getting me into the mission. It took me a while to create a relationship of trust with the airplane, which allows me to rest and eventually sleep by periods of 20 minutes with the autopilot. The experience of flight is so intense that I can only focus on the present moment and discover how to deal with my own energy and mindset.”
Should Borschberg successfully complete his leg, Bertrand will then pilot Solar Impulse 2 to Phoenix, Arizona. The pilots will then alternate across the Atlantic and back to Abu Dhabi where the plane first started its round the world trip on 9 March.