Swiss pilots attempt first round the world solar powered flight

Aviation history is currently in the making as Swiss pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg attempt the first solar powered flight around the world.

The Solar Impulse 2 finished the first leg of its solar powered flight round-the-world trip this week, taking off from Abu Dhabi and landing in Oman after a 13 hour flight.

The Middle East leg is one of 12 the Swiss pilots will try to navigate on their 35,000km global journey, which includes gruelling five to six day stints across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Solar Impulse 2’s round-the-world navigation follows the flight across America made by the prototype predecessor in 2013.

Solar Impulse 2 has wingspan wider than a Boeing 747, yet weighs only the same as a family car.

The plane is powered by 17,000 solar panels on its wings and fuselage, with 633kg of lithium batteries storing the energy to run the motors overnight.

The Solar Impulse 2 is set to take four to five months to complete its solar powered flight when it lands back in Abu Dhabi later this year.

The Solar Impulse 2 on the Abu Dhabi runway with pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg - image courtesy of Solar Impulse.
The Solar Impulse 2 on the Abu Dhabi runway with pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg – image courtesy of Solar Impulse.

Swiss pilot Bertrand Piccard taught himself and co-pilot Andre Borschberg self-hypnosis and meditation techniques in order to maintain concentration during the long periods of the flight.

Borschberg said being in the moment would be the key to completing the global journey.

“Time is not important anymore,” he said. “You have plenty of time and the only way to cope with this duration is to be in the present moment.

“If you start thinking about how many hours left until you get to the destination you get crazy, so the only way is to be present.

“In some ways it’s almost a spiritual experience that we are going through.”