ABU DHABI // After more than two days in the air, Solar Impulse 2 landed in Egypt on Tuesday for its penultimate stop on the plane’s world tour.
The solar-powered plane completed the first solo transatlantic flight to land in Spain last month, and will continue from Cairo to Abu Dhabi, where it began its round-the-world journey in March last year.
Upon departing from Spain on Monday, the flight path took Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg across the Mediterranean, crossing more national airspaces than on any other leg of the trip – including those of Tunisia, Algeria, Malta, Italy, Greece and Egypt.
Its support crew cheered as the plane, no heavier than a car but with the wingspan of a Boeing 747, landed.
“It was fantastic, everything worked well,” Mr Borschberg said, flying over the Giza Pyramids before landing at 9am UAE time.
He emerged from the cockpit and hugged Bertrand Piccard, with whom he has taken turns flying the plane around the world.
Solar Impulse is being flown on its 35,400-kilometre trip round the world in stages, with Mr Piccard and his Swiss compatriot Borschberg alternating at the controls of the single-seat plane.
The 58-year-old Piccard had flown the plane across the Atlantic in a 6,765 kilometre journey.
It completed its flight from New York to Seville in 71 hours, flying through the night with the energy stored in its 17,000 photovoltaic cells.
“It’s a new era for energy,” he said. “I love to fly this plane because when you are in the air for several days you have the impression to be in a film of science fiction.”
“You look at the sun, you look at your motors, they turn for days and for days, no fuel. And you think that’s a miracle. That’s magic. It is actually the reality of today. This is what we can do with these new technologies.”
He said the pilot takes 20-minute naps during the long flights, as the plane inches across the sky at about 48kph.
“It is comfortable. But, of course, you need to train for that. You need to train to make some exercise in the capsule, in the cockpit, because, otherwise, after several days you cannot move your legs and your arms anymore,” Mr Piccard said.
Both pilots have said they want to raise awareness of renewable energy sources and technologies with their project.
But Mr Piccard does not expect solar-powered commercial planes any time soon.
“There will not be passengers very soon in solar airplanes like ours,” he said.
“But there will be passengers very soon in electric airplanes that we will charge on the ground,” he predicted.
“On the ground you can charge batteries and you can have short-haul flights, maybe 500km, with 50 people flying in these planes,” in a decade, he said.
On the next and final leg of the journey, which could take place as early as this week, Solar Impulse will take off from Cairo for Abu Dhabi and will be piloted by Bertrand Piccard, co-founder of the project.
“It’s been a long journey, and of course, the last flight will be bittersweet but we have been waiting for this moment for a long time,” said Mr Piccard.
* Additional reporting by AFP
Source: uae news