Solar Impulse 2 has started smashing records even before the longest leg of its round-the-world flight is complete. At around three quarters of the way to its next touch down in Hawaii, the single-pilot aircraft has broken the world records for longest distance and duration for solar aviation, with the record for longest ever solo flight of any kind thrown in for good measure.
After a couple of false starts, Solar Impulse 2 took off from Nagoya, Japan on Sunday for its audacious five-day flight across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii with Swiss pilot and Solar Impulse co-founder André Borschberg at the helm. It has since stayed in the air for three days and nights without using a single drop of fuel, grabbing the distance and duration records, 5,663 km (3,518 mi) and 80 hours respectively, in the process.
But an even more impressive achievement was the surpassing of the longest non-stop solo flight without refuelling. The previous record was set by American sailor, pilot and all-round adventurer Steve Fossett, who flew for 76 hours on his way to circumnavigating the globe for a second time in his Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer in 2006.
As we write, Borschberg is at the controls of Solar Impulse 2 over the Pacific Ocean, grappling with a range of technical challenges and without the luxury of emergency landing sites underfoot. Undertaking daily yoga routines to keep his body functioning in the confines of the poky cockpit, Borschberg has switched on the autopilot and grabbed only sporadic moments of rest since Sunday, napping only so long as the regular turbulence will allow.
If all goes to plan the Solar Impulse 2 will land in Honolulu after around 120 hours of flight. From there, his fellow co-founder and explorer Bertrand Piccard will continue the expedition to Phoenix, Arizona, then cross the USA, the Atlantic Ocean and fly back to Abu Dhabi were it all started on March 9.
You can see Borschberg at the controls in the Solar Impulse 2 live stream below.
Source: Solar Impulse