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Solar-Powered Plane Lands in Hawaii after Crossing the Pacific

A plane that uses only solar power landed on the island of Oahu, Hawaii on Friday after being flown across the Pacific Ocean. The flight was the most dangerous part of the plane’s planned 35,000-kilometer trip around the world. The trip is being made without using any fuel.

The name of the plane is Solar Impulse 2. Pilot Andre Borschberg now holds the record for the longest non-stop solo flight in history. American adventurer Steve Fossett held the previous record after he flew around the world in 76 hours. Mr. Borschberg’s trip lasted 120 hours.

“Well there he goes, the cockpit door is open. The first person to say hello is, of course, Bertrand Piccard, who had this idea back in 1999.”

During the trip Mr. Borschberg slept in the cockpit of the plane for regular periods of 20 minutes. During those periods, the airplane used autopilot.

The flight began in Nagoya, Japan early last week after a month-long stop. The stop was not part of the trip’s original plan. During the plane’s trip from Nanjing, China to Hawaii at the beginning of June, bad weather forced it to land in Nagoya.

Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard will fly the airplane on the next part of the trip from Hawaii to the western American state of Arizona. The plane is then to be flown to New York and across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe. From there, it will fly to its final destination -- Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

Mr. Borschberg and Mr. Piccard designed the Solar Impulse 2. They say they are not trying to completely change the aviation industry. They said they are only trying to show what can be done. In a statement, Mr. Piccard said “Can you imagine that a solar-powered airplane without fuel can now fly longer than a jet plane? This is a clear message that clean technologies can achieve impossible goals.”

The plane is made from carbon-fiber material. The plane’s wingspan is 72 meters. That is longer than the wingspan of a Boeing 747 plane. It has just one seat and weighs about as much as an automobile. The plane’s wings have 17,000 solar cells that gather energy from the sun and charge the plane’s batteries.

The airplane has stopped in many places, including Oman, India, Myanmar and China. If the weather conditions are good, the plane will make up to three stops in the United States. It will then cross the Atlantic Ocean, stopping in southern Europe and North Africa. In late July or early August, the plane will land in Adu Dhabi, where the trip began in early March.

I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise.

VOA's Fern Robinson and Zlatica Hoke reported this story from Washington. Pete Musto adapted it for VOA Learning English. Christopher Jones-Cruise was the editor.


Words in This Story

solo – adj. done without another person

cockpit – n. the area in a boat or airplane where the pilot or driver sits

autopilot – n. a device that steers a ship, aircraft or spacecraft in place of a person

destination – n. a place to which a person is going or something is being sent

carbon-fiber – n. a very strong, lightweight, man-made material made from acrylic

solar cell – n. a device that uses light or heat from the sun to produce electricity

aviation – n. the business or practice of flying airplanes and helicopters

alternative – adj. not usual or traditional

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