The idea of a single flight lasting for five days sounds impossible. After all, even if you ignore the limitations of modern-day jets, most people can't stand being on a plane for more than a few hours, let alone days.
That being said, it's clear that pilot Andre Borschberg isn't your average human being. This past Monday, Borschberg took the controls of the Solar Impulse 2, the world's most advanced solar-powered aircraft. Starting in Nagoya, Japan, Borschberg's flight would take him across the Pacific Ocean, with his final destination being the Kalaeloa Airport in O'ahu, Hawaii. It's a ridiculously long flight (approximately 4,000 miles) and, as if the distance wasn't enough, the trip would take roughly 120 hours to complete. Basically, Borschberg would be flying alone, above the ocean, for five days straight.
It was an undertaking unlike anything in history, and there were more than a few risks involved. Thankfully, it looks like there wasn't much to worry about after all: after five long, arduous days of nonstop flying, Borschberg and the Solar Impulse 2 made a successful landing in Hawaii earlier today!
— SOLAR IMPULSE (@solarimpulse) July 3, 2015
As the eighth of 13 legs, the Solar Impulse 2's flight from Japan to Hawaii was arguably one of the most dangerous. Since starting its trip from Abu Dhabi, the Solar Impulse 2 has been flying over land - if something did happen to go wrong, the pilots would have at least had solid ground under their feet. However, the flight from Nagoya to O'ahu crossed the Pacific Ocean, meaning that Borschberg could have ended up stranded in the middle of nowhere with little hope of rescue.
On top of the inherent risk of the route, Borschberg was flying solo the entire time: for five days, the only rest Borschberg got were short, 20-minute naps. Essentially, Borschberg was on the same sleep cycle of a college student cramming for finals, but for five days straight while several thousand feet in the air.
I'm fighting, it's difficult... Managing energy level is not easy. I have to find a hole in the cold front. pic.twitter.com/amCLkTS60G — André Borschberg (@andreborschberg) July 2, 2015
Then again, it's somewhat amazing that the flight even got off the ground: before Borschberg took off on Monday, the Solar Impulse 2 had been grounded in Japan for weeks due to inclement weather. Add to that a large cold front passing over the Pacific - one that Borschberg had to fly through - and it's clear to see that the Solar Impulse 2 had its work cut out for it.
Despite all of the issues, Borschberg landed safely. Plus, not only did Borschberg set several new World Records (including longest solo flight by both time and distance), but the flight is a huge step forward for the use of renewable energy in aviation. Granted, widespread use of the technology is still a long way away, but Borschberg's flight proves that a plane using nothing but solar energy will be a viable option in the future.
Despite clearing one of the trip's biggest hurdles, the Solar Impulse 2 isn't done just yet. The next leg of its journey will be from Hawaii to Phoenix, then to the Midwest United States, New York City, over the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea before finally landing back in Abu Dhabi. Then in December, they plan to highlight the trip when they join clean-energy supporters at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP21, in Paris to highlight the Future Is Clean initiative.
For now, however, Borschberg and Solar Impulse can take a well-deserved rest.
Photo: Milko Vuille | Wikimedia