Solar Impulse 2 plane completes historic global flight

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, July 26 (UPI) — The solar-powered plane Solar Impulse 2 completed its historic flight around the world early Tuesday, as it touched down in Abu Dhabi.

The experimental craft was the first entirely solar-powered plane to fly around the world, taking 16 months — and 17 stages — to complete the journey.

Swiss pilot Bertrand Piccard began his trip in March 2015 on the same runway in the United Arab Emirates where he landed with much fanfare on Tuesday.

Piccard gave a thumbs up and said “We made it! We made it! All together, we did it!” just after landing.

Piccard alternated piloting duties with Andre Borschberg each leg of the journey, with Borschberg taking the next to last stage that ended in Cairo, Egypt on July 13. Piccard took the last leg from Cairo Sunday morning.

After working on the project for more than a decade, the two had originally planned to complete the trip last year, but bad weather and battery damage ultimately grounded the plane for 10 months.

The plane’s wingspan is as long as a Boeing 747 and covered in 17,000 solar cells. Inside the tiny cockpit, the ride can be bumpy and the pilot must be hooked to an oxygen tank at high altitudes and is only allowed to sleep 20 minutes at a time.

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