Solar-powered plane lands in California after Pacific crossing

MOUNTAIN VIEW: Solar Impulse 2, an experimental plane flying around the world without consuming a drop of fuel, has landed in California, one leg closer to completing its trailblazing trip.

“The Pacific is done, my friend. I love it, but it’s done,” said clearly relieved Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard, who piloted the craft from Hawaii to California, just before landing late on Saturday.

“It’s great to be in California, the land of pioneers,” he said once on the ground, with Google co-founder and alternative energy enthusiast Sergey Brin on hand.

“Innovation and pioneering must continue. The clean tech revolution has to keep moving forward.”

Piccard, a 58-year-old doctor by training, said that enduring the 62-hour stretch between Hawaii and the Silicon Valley town of Mountain View was one of the “most amazing” experiences of his life.

“I bet that in 10 years, electric airplanes will be transporting up to 50 people. This will happen,” he added. “This is not science fiction. It is real,” Piccard said.

The arrival at Moffett Airfield southeast of San Francisco, marked the completion of the ninth of 13 legs in a journey that began last year in the United Arab Emirates.

Piccard, who has been alternating the long solo flights with teammate Andre Borschberg, will now hand over to his teammate who will pilot Solar Impulse across the United States and to New York.

The Pacific crossing is the most dangerous due to a lack of landing sites in the event of an emergency.

Travelling at altitudes of more than 9,000 meters, Borschberg at times had to use oxygen tanks to breathe and experienced huge swings in temperature throughout.

Alone throughout and utterly self-reliant in the unpressurised cockpit, he was equipped with a parachute and life raft in case he needed to ditch in the Pacific.

Piccard said that he could not sleep more than 20 minutes at a time “because after 20 minutes you have to wake up and control everything and if everything goes well then you can go back to sleep.”