Long haul flight: Solar-powered plane lands after two-day Pacific crossing

Solar Impulse 2, an experimental plane flying around the world without consuming a drop of fuel, landed in California on Sunday, one leg closer to completing its trailblazing trip. The landing at Moffett Airfield was delayed for two hours as pilot Bertrand Piccard flew in holding pattern waiting for high winds to die down. It marked the completion of the ninth of 13 legs in a 35,000km journey which began last year in the United Arab Emirates. It was also the end of the crossing of the Pacific, considered the most dangerous part of the journey because of the lack of landing sites should something go wrong.

The Pacific is done, my friend. I love it, but it’s done

Pilot Bertrand Piccard

The goal of the flight is to promote the use of renewable energy with an aircraft powered by 17,000 solar cells. The plane’s wingspan is wider than that of a jumbo jet but its weight is roughly the same as a car’s, thanks to its light construction. Swiss adventurer Piccard, 58, has been alternating the long solo flights with teammate Andre Borschberg. He explained he could not sleep more than 20 minutes at a time “because after 20 minutes you have to wake up and control everything and if everything goes well then you can go back to sleep”.

You know there was a moment in the night, I was watching the reflection of the moon on the ocean and I was thinking `I’m completely alone in this tiny cockpit and I feel completely confident’

Bertrand Piccard