Solar Impulse pilot Andre Borschberg can only take short 20-minute naps during the five-day transpacific flight

Solar Impulse breaks record for solo flying

The pilot of Sun-powered Solar Impulse aircraft has broken a world record for the longest non-stop solo flight on Thursday, ahead of reaching its destination in Hawaii.

Andre Borschberg, who is taking turns at the innovative plane’s controls with his colleague Bertrand Piccard during their ground-breaking attempt to circumnavigate the world without a drop of fuel, took off with Solar Impulse from Japan on Monday and they are expected to reach Hawaii on Friday.

He has broken the previous record of 76 hours of uninterrupted one-man flying whilst cruising over the Pacific. The previous record was set in 2006 by deceased American entrepreneur and adventurer Steve Fossett.

"Can you imagine that a solar powered airplane without fuel can now fly longer than a jet plane?" said Piccard in a statement. "This is a clear message that clean technologies can achieve impossible goals."

The plane originally set out for the challenging transpacific flight, the seventh leg of its 35,000km round-the-globe journey from China on 31 May, but was forced to abort the attempt and land in Nagoya, central Japan, due to worsening weather.

Andre Borschberg - who is confined inside a tiny unheated and unpressurised cockpit during the flight - can only take short naps of 20 minutes while the plane flies on 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," Borschberg commented during the journey.

The plane is about a size of a personal car, but has a wingspan equal to that of an Airbus A340 and is powered by 17,000 solar cells covering its wings that produce enough energy to last the plane throughout the night.

The plane started its round-the-world trip on 9 March this year. It travels at rather modest speeds between 50 and 100km/h. It is expected to take 25 flight days to complete the journey, broken down into 12 legs.

The next leg of the flight will be from Honolulu to Phoenix, Arizona, and then Borschberg and Piccard will fly together across the Atlantic on a return path to Abu Dhabi.

Studies, design and construction took 12 years and a first version of the craft rolled out in 2009, breaking records for heights and distances travelled by a manned solar plane.

In 2013 Borschberg and Piccard crossed the North American continent with an earlier version of the plane.

Recent articles

Info Message

Our sites use cookies to support some functionality, and to collect anonymous user data.

Learn more about IET cookies and how to control them