PLANE POWERED BY SOLAR ENERGY COMPLETES FIRST ROUND-THE-WORLD JOURNEY

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PLANE POWERED BY SOLAR ENERGY COMPLETES FIRST ROUND-THE-WORLD JOURNEY

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — The world’s first round-the-world flight to be powered solely by the sun’s energy made history Tuesday (local time) as it landed in Abu Dhabi, where it first took off on an epic 25,000-mile journey that began more than a year ago.

Since its March 2015 take off, the Swiss-engineered Solar Impulse 2 has made 16 stops across the world without using a drop of fuel to demonstrate that using the plane’s clean technologies on the ground can halve the world’s energy consumption, save natural resources and improve quality of life.

“Our mission now is to continue to motivate people, corporations and governments to use these same solutions on the ground wherever they make sense,” Solar Impulse chairman and pilot, Bertrand Piccard, said in a statement ahead of landing the plane in Abu Dhabi.

The aircraft is uniquely powered by 17,248 solar cells that transfer energy to four electrical motors that power the plane’s propellers. It runs on four lithium polymer batteries at night. The plane’s wingspan stretches 236 feet to catch the sun’s energy.

At around 5,070 pounds, the plane weighs about as much as a minivan or mid-sized truck. An empty Boeing 747, in comparison, weighs 400,000 pounds. To help steady it during takeoffs and landings, the plane was guided by runners and bicyclists

Despite its historic mission, the Solar Impulse 2’s journey was far from a quick or problem-free.

The pilots faced a nine-month delay a year ago after the plane’s batteries were damaged during a flight from Japan to Hawaii. It was also delayed for more than a week in Cairo ahead of its final flight to Abu Dhabi when Piccard fell ill, and due to poor weather conditions.

Over its entire mission, Solar Impulse 2 completed more than 500 flight hours, cruising at an average speed of between 28 mph and 56 mph. It made stops in Oman, India, Myanmar, China, Japan, the U.S., Spain, Italy, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Its North American stops included California, Arizona, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.

In a statement this week, Borschberg said it is no longer a question of whether it’s possible to fly without fuel or polluting emissions.

“By flying around the world thanks to renewable energy and clean technologies, we have demonstrated that we can now make our world more energy efficient,” he said.

The carbon-fiber plane is a single-seater aircraft, meaning its two Swiss pilots — Piccard and Andre Borschberg— had to take turns flying solo for long days and nights. To calm their minds and manage fatigue during the long solo flights, Borschberg practiced yoga and Piccard self-hypnosis.

The pilots would rest a maximum of 20 minutes at a time, repeating the naps 12 times over each 24-hour stretch.

It took 70 hours for Piccard to cross the Atlantic Ocean, which was the first by a solar-powered airplane.

Borschberg’s flight over the Pacific Ocean at 118 hours — or what is five days and five nights — shattered the record for the longest flight duration by an aircraft flying solo.

Read more about this story here: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/impulse-flight-completes-first-solar-round-world-journey-n616576

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