'Beautiful Flight' Across The Atlantic Is Major Milestone For Solar Plane | KNKX

'Beautiful Flight' Across The Atlantic Is Major Milestone For Solar Plane

Jun 23, 2016
Originally published on June 23, 2016 4:57 pm

After 71 hours and 8 minutes of flight time crossing the Atlantic, Solar Impulse 2 has touched down in Seville, Spain. It's a major step toward the team's goal of circumnavigating the globe using only the sun's power.

The end of this leg means they've now completed 90 percent of that journey.

As The Two-Way has reported, the single-seater plane took off from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport early Monday with pilot Bertrand Piccard at the controls.

It was a "beautiful flight that has countlessly left Bertrand in awe at the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean — encountering oil tankers, islands, whales, icebergs, and an abundance of water," the team said in a blog post on the Solar Impulse site.

Piccard had to try to avoid clouds, or fly above them, so that the plane could use the sun's power to charge its batteries. The plane also climbs to higher altitudes during the day, collecting potential energy, and then uses that stored energy to descend to lower altitudes as night falls. As the team explains, that's "a time of approximately one hour when the solar generators do not need to be switched on."

But flying responsibilities aside, Piccard still had a lot of time to fill as he traversed the Atlantic. At various points, he chatted live with business leaders and EU officials from the cockpit. He paged through a signed copy of Leonard Cohen's Book of Longing.

He also managed to take a really cool selfie:

Here's what Piccard said upon landing in Spain:

"The new world is the world of modern, clean technologies. The world of respect for the environment. The world of innovation. The world of pioneers. This is the world that Solar Impulse and its team would like to represent, would like to promote. So we really hope that this flight symbolizes the flight from the old world to the new world."

This isn't the longest leg of the journey. The journey from Japan to Hawaii took 120 hours, and as The Two-Way noted, it broke the previous record for the longest duration nonstop solo flight. That journey also fried the plane's batteries, forcing a nine-month delay for repairs.

As we've reported, "Solar Impulse 2 has the wingspan of a jetliner and the weight of a minivan. It uses 17,000 solar cells to generate power — some of which is stored in lithium-ion batteries that help the plane stay aloft overnight."

The team says it is still mapping out the remainder of the journey, which will end where it started — Abu Dhabi. They say it will take "another three flights or so" to get there, and the next stop will be either Egypt or Greece.

We'll keep you updated on the next stages of the journey.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Now let's take a break from politics and big judicial decisions to talk about a pilot's unprecedented flight across the Atlantic.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: He made it. Charles A. Lindbergh landed at Le Bourget Airport in Paris.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

No, wrong tape.

CORNISH: No, no. Not the right one.

SHAPIRO: Sorry, not that transatlantic flight. We're talking about Bertrand Piccard.

CORNISH: He's one of the pilots of the Solar Impulse 2, which is trying to make it all the way around the world using solar power.

SHAPIRO: If it succeeds, this would be the first flight around the world in a plane powered only by the sun.

CORNISH: The long trip has been split up into lots of separate flights. The transatlantic part of the trip was the 15th leg - one of the longest flights - and risky because it meant three days and nights over an ocean with no fuel.

SHAPIRO: Piccard set off from New York on Monday and landed successfully in southern Spain this morning.

BERTRAND PICCARD: Good morning, Sevilla.

(APPLAUSE)

SHAPIRO: He was handed a bottle of champagne and spoke to a crowd gathered on the tarmac.

PICCARD: The Atlantic has always been the symbol of going from the old world to the new world. And everybody has tried to cross the Atlantic with sailboats, steamboats, balloons. Today, it's a solar-powered airplane for the first time ever, flying electric with no fuel and no pollution.

CORNISH: Piccard seemed pretty fresh, considering he had just spent 71 hours in flight. Lindbergh's trip was a zippy 33 hours.

SHAPIRO: Piccard spent the hours tweeting a lot. He gave interviews and made calls.

CORNISH: Don't forget selfies with a selfie stick poking out of the plane.

SHAPIRO: The goal is to make it back to Abu Dhabi, where they started in March of last year.

CORNISH: With this latest flight, they're 90 percent there. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.