Solar Impulse Broke the Nonstop Solo Flight Record Today

Illustration for article titled Solar Impulse Broke the Nonstop Solo Flight Record Today

Earlier today, pilot André Borschberg set the record for the longest nonstop solo flight, while completing the ambitious Pacific leg of the Solar Impulse’s journey around the world.

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On Monday, the sun-powered Solar Impulse plane set off on what would become a 120 hour-plus flight from Nagoya, Japan, to Hawaii. Now, over 76 hours into the journey, the fuel-free plane has made aviation history by breaking the solo flight record set by American Steve Fosset in 2006. In doing so, Solar Impulse is showing the world exactly what’s possible with current solar technology.

The Impulse is slated to touch down in Kalaeloa, Hawaii tomorrow, but when exactly the plane will land isn’t yet clear. Right now, Borschberg faces the tricky task of trying to manage his way across a cold front:

Once he reaches his destination, there are some stringent constraints in place to ensure that the solar flier’s 72-meter wingspan is able to touch down safely, including a maximum crosswind of no more than 4 knots. If ground conditions are too windy, Borschberg will be asked to circle the plane overhead until things calm down.

At that point, our heroic pilot will have already spent 120 hours in the air, strapped to a seat that doubles as a toilet, bed, and exercise machine, and having barely slept in days. Don’t worry, though: Before departure, Borschberg received meditation and hypnosis training to help him maintain concentration for what has become the most demanding journey of his life.

You can follow the progress of the flight on the Solar Impulse website or get the behind the scenes updates from Borschberg on Twitter.

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[BBC]

Follow Maddie on Twitter or contact her at maddie.stone@gizmodo.com

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Top image: Swiss-made Solar Impulse 2. Image: AP Photo/Ajit Solanki

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DISCUSSION

SoonerAviator
SoonerAviator

I feel like there is a lot more being made of this than it actually is. I’m impressed by the pilot’s endurance, but I don’t feel like it’s some spectacular feat that a giant solar powered glider takes 5 days to cross the Pacific. I guess it’s proof of concept, despite no one having argued that solar-powered flight can be done. It’s just not efficient, nor a useful method of getting anywhere in a hurry. The key to just about everything solar/electric powered is battery tech. If this trip around the world was going to be faster than Steve Fosset’s trip in a balloon with no propulsion, it might be worth talking about. Sadly, it’s going to take about the same 2 weeks.