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Solar Plane Completes Historic Round-the-World Flight

  • VOA News

Bertrand Piccard (R) and Andre Borschberg (L), pilots of the solar powered Solar Impulse 2 aircraft, are greeted upon arrival at Al Batin Airport in Abu Dabi to complete its world tour flight, July 26, 2016, in the United Arab Emirates.

Bertrand Piccard (R) and Andre Borschberg (L), pilots of the solar powered Solar Impulse 2 aircraft, are greeted upon arrival at Al Batin Airport in Abu Dabi to complete its world tour flight, July 26, 2016, in the United Arab Emirates.

The Solar Impulse 2 has become the first plane to complete a round-the-world trip powered only by the sun's energy.

This Swiss engineered plane on Tuesday landed in Abu Dhabi, from where it first took off on an epic 40,000-kilometer journey that began more than a year ago.

The solar plane made 16 stops across the world without using a drop of fuel. "Our mission now is to continue to motivate people, corporations and governments to use these same solutions on the ground wherever they make sense,'' Solar Impulse chairman and pilot Bertrand Piccard said in a statement.

Piccard, after landing the plane, was greeted by fellow pilot Andre Borschberg. The two hugged and pumped their fists in excitement.

"The future is clean. The future is you. The future is now. Let's take it further," Piccard said to the applause of a crowd that had gathered to greet the pilots.

Solar Impulse is not much heavier than a car, but has the wingspan of a Boeing 747. It is powered by 17,248 solar cells that transfer energy to four electrical motors that power the plane's propellers. It runs on four lithium polymer batteries at night. The plane's wingspan stretches 72 meters to catch the sun's energy.

"The world is moving. If we want a good quality of life today, we have to turn to clean technologies, to renewable energies. This is why it's very important to understand that [it's] more than achievements for the history of aviation, it's a success for the history of energy," Piccard said.

Over its entire mission, Solar Impulse 2 completed more than 500 flight hours, cruising at an average speed of between 45 kph and 90 kph. It made stops in Oman, India, Myanmar, China, Japan, the U.S., Spain, Italy, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Its North American stops included California, Arizona, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.

The carbon fiber plane is a single-seater aircraft, meaning its two Swiss pilots, Piccard and Andre Borschberg, had to take turns flying solo for long days and nights. In a statement this week, Borschberg said it is no longer a question of whether it's possible to fly without fuel or polluting emissions.

"By flying around the world thanks to renewable energy and clean technologies, we have demonstrated that we can now make our world more energy efficient,'' he said.

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