The Solar Impulse 2 airplane touched down early Tuesday, completing its final leg of the first entirely solar-powered flight around the world.
The experimental airplane landed amid much fanfare in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates — the same city where the historic voyage began more than a year ago, in March 2015.
Moments after landing Swiss pilot Bertrand Piccard, stuck his hand out of the cockpit, giving a thumbs up, and said: “We made it! We made it! All together, we did it!”
Piccard took off from Cairo early Sunday local time for the last portion of the journey that combines global circumnavigation and solar energy. He alternates legs of the flight with fellow Swiss pilot André Borschberg, who landed the plane in Cairo on July 13.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon on Monday joined a live-stream video call of the flight and encouraged Piccard during the pilot’s final leg.
“You are always welcome on our team,” Piccard told Ban from the cockpit. Musician Akon also called into the live stream to support the mission.
During one stretch of the plane's world tour using only energy from the sun, Borschberg completed the world’s longest non-stop solo flight last July — a four-day, 21-hour, 52-minute trip from Japan to Hawaii.
After that record-breaking flight, damage it caused to the plane's battery delayed the project until the plane resumed its flight in April. The aircraft then made multiple stops in the United States, from San Francisco to Phoenix, then to Tulsa. Other stops included Dayton, Ohio; Allentown, Pa.; and New York City, before crossing the Atlantic to Spain in June.
The solar project began 14 years ago not only to advance aviation technology but also to raise awareness about climate change, both pilots have said.
“The most important thing isn't to make world records," Piccard said last year. "It's to show what we can do with clean technologies.”
Bob Van der Linden, the curator of aeronautics at the Smithsonian Institution's Air and Space Museum, recently said, “It was never intended to be a pioneering plane,” but instead a way to advance solar power technology.
Source: USA Today