The Solar Impulse Completes Its Historical Flight Across the Atlantic

After taking off in March of 2015, hitting a bump in the road, and taking off again, the Solar Impulse has touched down in Spain.

Getty Images / Gary Gershoff

Back in March of 2015, the Solar Impulse, an aircraft running on absolutely no fuel whatsoever, set off from Abu Dhabi with one objective: to prove that the future of travel can run on clean energy. Piloted by Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard (Andre Borschberg took care of the journey’s first leg halfway around the world, which took 117 hours), the historical flight has made several headlines in the past, setting the new record after completing a four-day, 21-hour leg over the western Pacific; the longest solo flight in that time in recorded history.

Today, the aircraft finally landed in Seville, Spain, completing its journey after a little bit of confusion on which direction the plane should land. Streamed from an iPhone, the landing was delayed slightly further due to a welcoming (but very late) flyover, which included a small airshow involving a Eurofighter and the Patrulla Aguila, Spain’s special force of pilots, flying in perfect formation next to the Solar Impulse 2. With a mixture of what seemed like irritation and excitement, Piccard landed the plane roughly half an hour after its expected landing time.

Captain Piccard (ha!) has clocked a heavy 68 hours in the pilot’s chair, so the welcome back was perfect for the eager pilot. Earlier in the course of its journey, the aircraft had to land for ten months thanks to the damage from its record-breaking flight — so today’s landing was something of a victory for a mission that started with the environment in mind. But the landing, despite any unplanned delays, went off without a hitch.

Seville wasn’t the intended destination for the aircraft, which is powered by solar panels and covered in 17,000 photovoltaic cells; in fact, the plane was supposed to land in Paris, but complications arose ahead of the date. But as the sun rose over Spain, the Solar Impulse descended upon Seville Airport to a relieved and joyous crowd of air traffic control officials, press, and colleagues.

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