Solar-powered plane touches down on Oahu after 5-day journey

Solar-powered plane touches down on Oahu after 5-day journey
The Solar Impulse touches down at Kalaeloa Airport
The Solar Impulse touches down at Kalaeloa Airport
Copyright Solar Impulse
Copyright Solar Impulse

KALAELOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Soaring over the Pacific Ocean for nearly five days with little sleep but much perseverance, Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg finally completed the longest leg of his 22,000-mile journey around the world after landing at Kalaeloa Airport Friday morning, breaking barriers in aviation and renewable energy.

"To be able to do this flight was an extraordinary experience," Borschberg said, addressing a group of reporters after stepping out of the cockpit of the Solar Impulse 2.

As the first solar-powered plane to fly around the world using only the sun and without fuel or polluting emissions, the Solar Impulse landed on Oahu just before 6 a.m., completing leg 8 of 13. The aircraft left Nagoya, Japan early Monday after being grounded on the runway for several weeks due to unfavorable weather conditions.

Over the past few days on his more than 4,000-mile journey to the Hawaiian islands, Borschberg, who flew solo, battled some grueling conditions, including turbulence and lack of sleep. But the 62-year-old did yoga to keep up his mood and mindset.

"It's energy," he said. "It's energy for the airplane. It's energy for the human being. Of course, the airplane needs to recharge its battery every morning. So this is a challenge."

But along the way, he also reached some milestones, including breaking a world record for the longest solo endurance flight. And, of course, the 118-hour flight concluded the longest and most dangerous leg of his worldwide journey.

"We got so much support during the flight from so many people," Borschberg said. "I got messages all the time in the cockpit. It gave me so much energy. There was no way to stop or to fail."

Borschberg is expected to stay in Hawaii for at least four to five days, but his official departure date will depend on weather conditions.

"We would like to discover and meet the people here," Borschberg said. "They have been so fantastic to greet us, to organize everything, to welcome us, to provide a hangar, so that's going to be a next step."

As soon as he leaves, he will then proceed to Arizona, followed by two more stops in the U.S. and then a stop in Europe before ending his journey in Abu Dhabi, where he first took off from on March 9.

The Solar Impulse 2 was an idea by Swiss explorers Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, who set out to prove that new technologies and alternative energy sources can make the impossible seem possible. The team includes 90 people – including 30 engineers, 25 technicians and 22 mission controllers.

"It's a historic first for aviation, and it's a historic first for renewable energies," Piccard said. "Nobody now can say that renewable energies cannot do the impossible."

Borschberg's family, approximately 50 international journalists and members of the community were among those who watched the plane's arrival outside Kalaeloa Airport on Midway Road. Hawaii Gov. David Ige will also join him at a news conference later in the day.

For live tracking of the Solar Impulse, click here.

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