Earlier this week, Solar Impulse 2 became the first plane in history to circumnavigate the globe using only renewable energy sources. With pilots Bertrant Piccard and André Borschberg taking turns in the cockpit, the two-tonne, 72m wingspan plane flew 42,000km, using nothing more polluting than 17,000 solar cells.
It’s an incredibly achievement – but don’t get too excited just yet, because it took a while. Sixteen months, to be precise.
The plane left Abu Dhabi, in the UAE, on 9 March last year, and was expected to arrive back the following August. But during the eighth of 13 planned stages – a marathon 118 hour flight across the Pacific, from Naggya, Japan to Kalaeloa, Hawaii, last June and July – it sustained damage to its batteries, and spent the next 10 months in for repairs. It completed the journey in shorter legs than originally planned, too, turning 13 stages into 17, and adding several thousand kilometres to the trip.
Even when it worked well, the trip was slow going, averaging around 76km an hour (47mph). EasyJet will not be introducing a solar powered fleet any time soon.