Solar-powered plane breaks solo flight record

The solar-powered aircraft, Solar Impulse, flying from Japan to Hawaii, on the most perilous leg of a round-the-globe bid, has beaten the record for the longest solo flight, organisers said yesterday. They admitted though that veteran Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg was exhausted after over four days of continuous flying, which made the final 24 hours of flight particularly challenging. The plane was set to land this morning local time at Kalaeloa Airport on the main Hawaiian island of Oahu, some 20 miles (30 kilometers) west of Honolulu. By 7:30pm GMT (1am IST, Friday) on Thursday, Solar Impulse 2 had traveled 86 per cent of the way to the tropical US state, after flying 7,075 kilometers. However, it was in the process of crossing a cold front that required careful navigation on the part of Borschberg, which would significantly increase stress levels for the 62-year-old. Borschberg had so far flown over 97 hours easily beating the previous longest solo endurance flight undertaken in 2006. The Japan to Hawaii trip was expected to take 120 hours. The Swiss aviator was napping for only 20 minutes at a time so as to maintain control of the pioneering plane and has on the plane a parachute and life raft, in case he needed to ditch in the Pacific. The experimental solar-powered aircraft left Japan around 6pm GMT (11:30pm IST) on Sunday the early hours of Monday local time after spending a month in the central city of Nagoya. The aircraft, piloted alternately by Swiss explorers Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, embarked on its 22,000-mile (35,000-km) journey around the world from Abu Dhabi on 9 March. ''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, weighs about as much as a family sedan and has 17,000 solar cells across its wingspan. The aircraft was expected to make the trip around the globe in some 25 flight days, broken up into 12 legs at speeds between 30 to 60 miles per hour. The Solar Impulse 2 initially left Nanjing, China, on 31 May for Hawaii, but its bid was cut short a day later due to what Borschberg termed ''a wall of clouds'' over the Pacific. The plane landed in the central Japanese city of Nagoya. The solo record was earlier set in 2006 by American adventurer Steve Fossett, who flew the Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer for 76 hours non-stop. Source:

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