Since the Wright brothers’ historical flight in 1903, the world has watched in awe as aviation reached new heights, over and over again.
Today, two Swiss men are attempting another history-making journey: flying around with world with no fuel.
Businessman André Borschberg, 62, and psychiatrist and aeronaut Bertrand Piccard, 57, who co-piloted the first balloon to circle the world non-stop, intend to achieve the first circumnavigation of the Earth by a piloted fixed-wing aircraft using only power from the sun.
— SOLAR IMPULSE (@solarimpulse) June 5, 2015
Their plane, Solar Impulse 2, is a single-seater aircraft made of carbon fibre. Its wings span 72 metres, which is wider than a Boeing 747-8I, and the body of the plan weights just 2300 kilograms, around the same as a small car. Across the wings are 17,000 solar cells, which supply four electric motors.
Solar Impulse 2 can also fly at night as it carries lithium batteries, weighing 633 kilograms. In March 2015, the Swiss adventurers began their record-breaking trip, taking off from Abu Dhabi.
The crew has successfully crossed Asia, stopping at Muscat in Oman, Ahmedabad and Varanasi in India, Mandalay in Myanmar, Chongqing and Nanjing in China.
The plane is currently grounded in Nagoya, Japan, as it waits for a cold front to pass. The next leg of the epic adventure is crossing the Pacific to Hawaii and is one of the most dangerous and arduous for the solo pilots, who are alternating flights.
The trip across the ocean will take at least five days with Solar Impulse travelling at around 50 to 100km/hour.
— SOLAR IMPULSE (@solarimpulse) June 2, 2015
For the two pilots, flying Solar Impulse 2 requires more than just technical skill. In the cramped cockpit of the plane, the pilots use yoga techniques to keep the blood flowing to their muscles and meditation and hypnosis to keep the mind sharp.
During the five-day crossing of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, Mr Piccard says he will sleep or take himself into a state of hypnosis for 20 minutes a dozen times per day while the plan continues on auto-pilot. The adventurer previously trained and used this technique during the balloon flight.
Once reaching Hawaii, Solar Impulse will cross the US, with stops at Phoenix New York and somewhere in the middle, then it’s on to Europe and Africa before returning to Abu Dhabi. You can follow the progress of this historical flight here and on Twitter.
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