Solar Impulse lands in Hawaii after record-breaking flight across the Pacific

2015-07-03 - ABB’s innovation and technology alliance with Solar Impulse celebrates a remarkable feat: 120 hours, flying day and night from Japan to Hawaii, on nothing but energy from the sun. From here, the round-the-world mission heads to the mainland United States

Without a drop of fossil fuel, Solar Impulse has advanced from Abu Dhabi to Hawaii. ABB and its engineers have been there, every step of the way. Copyright:Solar Impulse Revillard
Solar Impulse, with pilot André Borschberg at the rudder, has landed in Hawaii at daybreak local time following a roughly 120-hour flight across the Pacific Ocean from Nagoya, Japan, setting a new benchmark for the promise of renewable energy and technological innovation in overcoming epic challenges.

It's also the high point, so far, of the innovation and technology alliance formed by ABB and Solar Impulse starting in 2014 to advance a shared vision of reducing resource consumption and increasing the use of renewable energy.

ABB Chief Executive Officer Ulrich Spiesshofer has said the mission is emblematic of the company's vision: Running the world without consuming the earth.

ABB, the global leader in power and automation technology, contributed three electrical engineers to the project starting in late 2014, just ahead of its initial takeoff March 9 in Abu Dhabi from where it flew across the Indian subcontinent to China’s coast, and now Hawaii.

From here, Borschberg’s fellow pilot, Solar Impulse co-founder Bertrand Piccard, is due to continue the epic ocean crossing to Phoenix, Arizona. The pilots will then take it in turns to fly the single-seater cockpit plane across the USA, the Atlantic, and finally back to Abu Dhabi.

Andre Borschberg, pictured inside the Solar Impulse cockpit hours before his historic landing in Hawaii
“I never had any doubt that Andre could do it,” said Piccard, who was in Hawaii to greet Borschberg when he landed. “This plane is carrying the hope of so many people, in the team, but also the supporters, because they are also in favor of clean technologies. This is not only a historic first in aviation - it's a historic first in energy.”

World-record flight

During the flight, Borschberg broke his own records for solar-powered flight, as well as the record for the longest non-stop solo flight without refueling, 76 hours, which was set by the American adventurer, Steve Fossett, in 2006.

This Pacific crossing was the longest and most challenging leg of Solar Impulse’s round-the-world flight and set new records for distance and duration in a solar-powered plane, as well as for the longest solo flight.

Borschberg landed at Kalaeloa Airport, a joint military and civilian airport the west of Honolulu, at around 6 a.m. local time (6 p.m. CET) on Friday, July 3, after five consecutive days and nights in the air, in which he flew 7,200 kilometers.

That’s after the airplane, with its 17,248 solar cells on its wings and fuselage, performed even better than crew members at the Mission Control Center in Monaco expected.

Along the way to Oahu, the Solar Impulse team confirmed its energy management topped original calculations, while the batteries were fully charged even before Borschberg reached his maximum altitude each day.

Spectacular feat
Co-pilots Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard wave to well-wishers in Hawaii after Borschberg completed the five-day, five-night odyssey from Nagoya, Japan Copyright:Solar Impulse Revillard

The flight was dramatic test of human endurance, with Borschberg managing all technical and operational challenges in an unheated, unpressurized cockpit, in which he could sleep no more than 20 minutes at a time - and sometimes less, as turbulence interrupted these brief pauses.

On arrival in Hawaii, Borschberg received an enthusiastic reception from the Solar Impulse ground crew as well as ABB representatives, journalists and well-wishers who had gathered to welcome him.

The plane reached the skies above Hawaii around 12 hours before it landed, but remained in a holding pattern to allow Borschberg to rest and land at dawn when weather conditions were ideal.

“No rush,” the team said via the Solar Impulse web site before the landing. “There's no fuel on board.”

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