Solar Impulse 2, the Solar powered aeroplane has completed the first round-the-world journey after touching down in Abu Dhabi early on Tuesday.
The plane, which has a wingspan wider than a Boeing 747 and carries more than 17,000 solar cells on its wings, began the circumnavigation in March 2015 in Abu Dhabi. It has since crossed both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans using no fossil fuel and has spent more than 23 days in the air.
The final leg of the feat, aimed at showcasing the potential of renewable energy, was a bumpy one, with turbulence driven by hot desert air leaving the solo pilot, Bertrand Piccard, fighting with the controls.
Speaking to the Guardian from the cockpit shortly before landing, Piccard said he was feeling emotional as he neared the end of the journey: “It is a very, very special moment – it has been 15 years that I am working on this goal.
“I hope people will understand that it is not just a first in the history of aviation, but also a first in the history of energy,” he said.
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, said: “Solar Impulse has flown more than 40,000 kilometers without fuel, but with an inexhaustible supply of energy and inspiration. This is a historic day for Captain Piccard and the Solar Impulse team, but it is also a historic day for humanity.
Solar Impulse’s journey was not smooth and easy, it faced some obstacles in between. Crosswinds in China caused weeks of delays in 2015 and overheating batteries during the Pacific crossing forced it to spend the winter inside a Hawaiian hangar.But the team managed to complete the task without giving up.
His Highness Shaikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, tweeted on Tuesday morning that Solar Impulse 2’s arrival was not the end, but the beginning of more achievements.