The solar-powered plane known as Solar Impulse 2 has cleared the most dangerous leg of its voyage around the world, landing safely on the Hawaiian island of Oahu on Friday morning. The plane had taken off from Nagoya, Japan.
After several weeks of delays and two aborted attempts, Swiss pilot André Borschberg was finally able to complete what he called “probably the flight of my life.”
The grueling 116-hour voyage over nearly five days allowed the solo pilot only about three hours of rest per day, broken up into 20-minute sessions while the craft was flown by autopilot.
This latest accomplishment proves that “energy efficiency, solar power, and modern technology can achieve the impossible,” Solar Impulse co-founder and alternating pilot Bertrand Piccard tweeted.
On this leg the Solar Impulse crossed more than 4,000 miles (6,400 kilometers) of ocean, the same desolate region where Amelia Earhart disappeared 77 years ago. But it wasn’t all smooth going. In addition to exhaustion Borschberg battled turbulence and cold fronts, which buffeted the lightweight, experimental plane.
Borschberg also had to overcome a malfunction in the on-board warning system. That meant “an important support for me is not available, specially in situations such as resting or even sleeping,” the pilot said in an email.