After being airborne for 62 hours over the Pacific Ocean, the Solar Impulse 2, an experimental aircraft attempting to fly around the world using only clean and renewable energy, has finally finished the riskiest leg of its long journey, flying from Hawaii to San Francisco and landing in Mountain View, Calif., on Saturday.
The Solar Impulse 2, which left for its around-the-world journey last year in Dubai, has made stops in Oman, Myanmar, China, Japan and Hawaii. However, what was supposed to be a smooth journey turned a bit sour last year when the trailblazing aircraft's battery system sustained heat damage during its trip from Japan. As a result, the aircraft was grounded for months as its crew repaired the damage.
Eventually, the Solar Impulse 2 became airworthy once more, with one of its designated pilots, Bertrand Piccard, who alternates with Andre Borschberg after every stop on the plane's journey, taking the solar-powered plane through its riskiest leg in its journey to date.
The Hawaii-to-San Francisco leg was particularly risky due to the absence of emergency landing areas on the ocean. Thus, if the aircraft would encounter trouble, Piccard, the pilot for the leg, would be forced to parachute out of the plane and call for rescue from the sea.
Despite the dangers and the difficulties faced by the aircraft and its pilot across the Pacific, the Solar Impulse 2 triumphantly crossed the waters and entered California on Saturday.
"The Pacific is done, my friend. I love it, but it's done. It's great to be in California, the land of pioneers. Innovation and pioneering must continue. The clean tech revolution has to keep moving forward," Piccard said.
Piccard, a doctor by training and an avid adventurer at heart, further stated that crossing the Pacific was one of the "most amazing" experiences in his life. He also expressed his optimism about the future of clean air travel.
"I bet that in 10 years, electric airplanes will be transporting up to 50 people. This will happen. This is not science fiction. It is real," he said.
The Solar Impulse 2's around-the-world journey, which is the most ambitious project in clean air travel to date, is estimated to cost upward of $100 million. Despite its cost, it is nonetheless seen as a means to highlight the importance of renewable energy and, of course, the heart and spirit of technological innovation.