A Swiss plane has made the first ever solo transatlantic crossing, arriving in Spain on Thursday morning after a 70-hour flight from New York powered only by the sun’s light.
“”I can’t take it in, it is so fantastic!” Swiss pilot Piccard told the plane’s mission control centre in Monaco as the plane touched down in Seville.
“After a long night of turbulence and little sleep, I see the first light of the day,” Piccard had posted on Twitter earlier on Wednesday. He had also tweeted about glimpses he had caught of whales and icebergs during the occasionally turbulent three-day journey.
He called the crossing ‘perfect’ and paid tribute to the engineers and meteorologist who had enabled him to pass through the clouds as if “through the eye of a needle,” reports The Local.
Solar Impulse has just completed the 15th stage of its around-the-world trip. It began on March 9, last year in Abu Dhabi, and has already completed flights across Asia and the Pacific to the United States. The entire 35,400km trip will be completed with the sun as its only source of power, as Piccard and his Swiss compatriot Andre Borschberg take turns at the controls of the single-seat plane.
Borschberg piloted a 118-hour flight over 6437 kilometres between Japan and Hawaii that broke the previous record for the longest uninterrupted journey in aviation history.
The plane is roughly the same weight as a car, but has the wingspan of a Boeing 747. It typically travels at 48 kilometres per hour (36 miles per hour), although can double that flight speed when exposed to full sunlight.
Pilots Borschberg and Piccard have said that the aim of their project is to raise awareness of renewable energy sources and technologies.
“I’m flying over the Atlantic with no fuel to show that solar energy & energy efficiency can achieve incredible goals,” Piccard tweeted.