The Solar Impulse 2, a lightweight aircraft using only solar power, completed its around-the-world flight today when it landed in Abu Dhabi after traveling 40,000 kilometers.
Solvay SA, which co-sponsored from the start, and provided materials used throughout the plane, congratulated pilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg.
Fifteen Solvay products applied in more than 6,000 parts enable the storage and optimal consumption of energy and lightweight the solar plane. Moreover, Solvay supplied the composite materials for the wing spars and rear stabilizer parts.
"All limits of materials we have pushed further to make this plane fly with you, reinforce our belief that chemistry provides effective solutions for the sustainable development of our societies. Our group aspires more than ever to remain a bridge between science and sustainable progress. Yes, we can ask more from chemistry,” said Solvay CEO Jean-Pierre Clamadieu in a letter to the pilots.
The Belgium-headquartered chemicals giant first became the first partner of Solar Impulse in 2004.
At around 2,300 kilograms, the plane weighed about as much as a minivan or a mid-sized truck. An empty Boeing 747, in comparison, weighs 181,000 kilograms. To help steady it during take-offs and landings, the plane was guided by runners and bicyclists.
Despite its historic mission, the Solar Impluse 2's journey was far from quick or problem-free. The pilots faced a nine-month delay a year ago after the plane's batteries were damaged during a flight from Japan to Hawaii.
Over its entire mission, Solar Impluse 2 completed more than 500 flight hours, cruising at an average speed of between 28-56 mph. It made stops in Oman, India, Myanmar, China, Japan, the US, Spain, Italy, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Its North American stops included California, Arizona, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.
It took 70 hours for Piccard to cross the Atlantic Ocean, the first such flight by a solar-powered airplane. Borschberg's journey over the Pacific Ocean at 118 hours shattered the record for the longest flight duration by an aircraft flying solo.