The first solar-powered plane to fly across the Atlantic will land on Thursday after four days, it has been revealed. The plane, part of a project run by Solar Impulse, uses no fuel and therefore produces zero emissions.
Bertrand Piccard, chairman and pilot for Solar Impulse, took off from JFK Airport in New York City on Monday morning. He will complete his four-day flight by touching down at Seville International Airport in Spain between 6:30 a.m. and 7 a.m. local time Thursday.
The flight forms part of a larger journey, aiming to circumnavigate the entire globe in a plane that uses no fuel. The journey started in 2015 in Abu Dhabi.
Piccard answered interview questions live from the cockpit on Wednesday. Damian Carrington, a reporter from The Guardian, said that his daughter wanted to know if he ever gets bored. “It’s true that when you cross the Atlantic in the conventional way you see ocean and cloud for hours,” Piccard said. “But it’s completely different if you’re flying an experimental plane.”
This experimental plane, called “Solar Impulse 2,” uses 17,000 solar cells to keep four batteries charged up. Full commercial flights based on the tech may be a while away: Piccard’s plane only seats one.
The suspense, Piccard explained, was what kept him excited. The idea that this groundbreaking aircraft is actually taking him across the ocean is incredible. “It’s like I’m already in the future, I’m doing something that is magic!” he said.
Piccard hopes the project will be able to prove that the idea that environmentally friendly flight is achievable. He describes himself as an “inspioneer” on his website, “an explorer of the human spirit who rejects all dogma.” “A real visionary, he formulates his projects pioneering philosophies and sketches out their symbolic significance and relevance for the public,” his website reads.
With this in mind, it’s easy to see how the thrill of breaking new ground has kept Piccard going these past three days. “Everyone has dreams, everyone can fulfil them,” he said on Wednesday. “We just have to jump outside of our comfort zone.”