Solar plane completes epic round-the-world trip
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AFP on July 26, 2016, 2:29 pm
Abu Dhabi (AFP) - Solar Impulse 2 on Tuesday completed its historic round-the-world journey, becoming the first airplane to circle the globe powered only by the sun to promote renewable energy.
Cheers and applause broke out as the plane touched down before dawn in Abu Dhabi after the final leg of its marathon trip which began on March 9 last year.
Swiss explorer and project director Bertrand Piccard was in the cockpit during the more than 48-hour flight from Cairo, crossing the Red Sea, the vast Saudi desert and flying over the Gulf.
It capped a remarkable 43,000-kilometre (26,700-mile) journey across four continents, two oceans and three seas, accomplished in 23 days of flying without a drop of fuel.
"The future is clean, the future is you, the future is now, let's take it further," Piccard said as he disembarked.
"One thing I would like for you to remember: More than an achievement in the history of aviation, Solar Impulse has made an achievement in (the) history of energy," he said.
"We have enough solutions, enough technologies. We should never accept the world to be polluted only because people are scared to think in another way."
Hours before landing, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon lavished praise on the team in a live-streamed conversation.
Dubbed the "paper plane", Solar Impulse 2 circumnavigated the globe in 17 stages, with 58-year-old Piccard and his compatriot Andre Borschberg taking turns at the controls of the single-seat aircraft.
Borschberg, 63, smashed the record for the longest uninterrupted solo journey in aviation history between Nagoya, Japan and Hawaii that lasted nearly 118 hours and covered 8,924 kilometres last year.
No heavier than a car but with the wingspan of a Boeing 747, the four-engine, battery-powered aircraft relies on around 17,000 solar cells embedded in its wings.
The plane clocked an average speed of 80 kilometres an hour (50 miles per hour)
The pilots used oxygen tanks to breathe at high altitude and wore suits specially designed to cope with the extreme conditions.
They have had to withstand temperatures inside the tiny cockpit ranging from minus 20 degrees to plus 35 degrees C (minus 4 degrees to plus 95 degrees F).
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