Solar Impulse Lands on the U.S. Mainland

The solar-powered Si2 has completed its second longest overwater leg, from Hawaii to California.

Solar Impulse Si2

Solar Impulse landing in Mountain View, California, United States of America

The Si2 flies over the Golden Gate Bridge before completing its crossing of the Pacific Ocean.Solar Impulse

The Solar Impulse team has done it again. After being grounded since last August, the Si2 continued its round-the-world flight, completing the leg over the Pacific Ocean from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Mountain View, California. Flying met up with the team there and spoke with the Solar Impulse initiator and chairman Bertrand Piccard and cofounder and CEO André Borschberg.

“There were a certain number of things that could happen well during the flight — the full moon, the live interview with Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations from the cockpit, the Golden Gate, the landing in Silicon Valley — and I thought if everything goes like this it means that it was really worth it to do the 16 last years that were sometimes so difficult,” Piccard said.

Fortunately for Piccard, all of the pieces fell into place. He said he was so pumped up when he arrived at the California coast three days and two nights after he took off that all he wanted to do was keep flying.

Piccard unofficially broke several records during the flight, including distance, speed and altitude flown in a solar-powered airplane. The longest flight record, however, was maintained by Borschberg, who flew for five days and nights from Japan to Hawaii, the longest solo flight in the history of aviation. The airplane had been grounded in Hawaii since August after that marathon flight, which ended up putting so much stress on the batteries that they had to be replaced. Piccard said the new batteries are more advanced and performed perfectly during his flight.

Being on the sharpest tip of the cutting edge of technology, Solar Impulse has had some major challenges. However, with more than half the journey now behind it, the success of this groundbreaking project is becoming more likely by the day.

The Si2 will now continue across the United States with several stops along the way. Unlike its previous flight plan, which had set stops, the team has opted for more flexibility to allow for several possible flight paths depending on the best weather patterns. Not only are clouds a limiting factor, the airplane is so slow that, if presented with a strong head wind, it has the potential to fly backward, a scenario that has occurred during its long journey.

The Solar Impulse started its flight in March 2015 in Abu Dhabi, and its journey will end there. When that will happen only the weather gods know.

Watch the stunning video of Si2 flying over the Golden Gate Bridge below.