Sun-powered airplane arrives in New York
Swiss adventurer André Borschberg landed the single-seat, 5,000-pound solar-powered airplane in New York early on Saturday morning after an overnight flight from Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania to conclude the pioneering plane’s voyage across North America on its round-the-world journey. It was the 14th leg of the journey and one of the shortest, covering 265 kilometers.
Borschberg flew the experimental airplane past the Statue of Liberty, a symbol of America's pioneering, exploration and inventive spirit. He then headed over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge that connects Brooklyn to Staten Island and was named after a 16th century Italian explorer, before landing the aircraft powered by 17,000 solar cells and four powerful batteries at JFK.
Together with Swiss compatriot Bertrand Piccard who takes turn on the solo flights that have lasted up to a record-breaking 117 hours, the two pilots have been flying the plane with a wingspan as large as that of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet across Asia, the Pacific Ocean and North America en route back to Abu Dhabi, where their circumnavigation of the globe originated on March 9, 2015. The next stop for the propeller airplane that was designed to demonstrate the tremendous potential of clean technologies will be in Europe or possibly Morroco, tracing in general the route flown by American aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh in 1927 when he became the first pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic on a flight from New York to Paris that took 33 hours.
The Solar Impulse 2's ideal flight speed is about 28 mph. Last year Borschberg shattered the record for endurance by flying solo 117 hours and 52 minutes, or five days and five nights, non-stop across the Pacific from Nagoya, Japan to Hawaii – or a distance of 8,924 kilometers/ 7,272 miles. Excess energy collected during daylight hours is stored in the airplane’s four batteries and used to keep the plane flying overnight.
It can fly as high as 28,000 feet (or 8,500 meters) but usually flies at lower altitudes at night to conserve energy. Piccard and Borschberg have been taking turns flying the plane, which has now covered some 29,837 kilometers of its projected 35,000-kilometer journey while flying nearly 390 hours since taking off from Abu Dhabi. They have trained at staying alert for long stretches of time by practicing meditation and hypnosis that allows them to stay awake for multiple days interrupted only by several short naps each 24-hour cycle.
The arrival in New York of the carbon fiber airplane, which weighs about the same as a midsize truck, has been eagerly awaited for weeks as the SI2 made its way across the United States with stops in Mountain View, California, Phoenix, Arizona, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Dayton, Ohio and Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.