A Swiss pilot attempting to fly an airplane around the world using only solar energy, landed safely in Hawaii Friday morning.
Pilot Andre Borschberg landed the Solar Impulse 2 at the Kalaeloa Airport in west Oahu at approximately 5:54 a.m. after flying for five days from Nagoya, Japan.
Borschberg set records for distance (4,480 miles) and duration (117 hours and 52 minutes) for solar aviation and the duration record for a solo flight without refueling, the organizers said.
The few waiting on Solar Impulse 2 at 2:30 a.m. grew to a crowd, as there were few spots left at the terminal parking lot and parking stalls around the perimeter of the airport after the plane safely landed. While some stayed in their cars, there were more than 75 residents standing at the fence of the airport to watch the historic landing.
Crowds cheered as Solar Impulse 2 came to a stop and Borschberg said he felt “incredible” after the touch-down.
With Solar Impulse chairman Bertrand Piccard at his side, Borschberg stood for the first time since his take-off in Japan.
Piccard presented his proclaimed “solar brother” with a bottle of champagne as the pilot rose from his seat for the first time in nearly five days.
Despite the long flight, Borschberg told the media he wasn’t exhausted and was eager to spread the word about renewables.
While Borschberg said it was important to meet with local energy stakeholders and highlight the technology of the plane, he also mentioned plans to get on a surfboard at some point during his stay.
"We have some work to do, as I’m sure other people will be interested to see the update and discuss these technologies,” he said. "But there is no way that we shouldn’t try surfing.”
Hula dancers from Island Pacific Academy welcomed the pilot with a song as lawmakers and Polynesian Voyaging Society’s Nainoa Thompson climbed up to the cockpit to welcome Borschberg to Oahu.
State Sen. Mike Gabbard (D, Kapolei-Makakilo) welcomed the pilots and asked the crowd to “show some aloha” to the Swiss explorers. The crowd obliged with a cheer.
Hawaii Pa’u Riders Association of Cook’s Ranch in Waimanalo presented a giant lei to the pilots and plane.
International news organizations, national news wires and local media outlets were at the scene to document the historic landing.
The sun is the only source of energy for the carbon-fiber aircraft. The Solar Impulse 2’s 236-foot wingspan was built with more than 17,000 solar cells, four electric motors and lithium batteries replacing the need for fuel.
Hawaii is first of four U.S. destinations for the plane. The Solar Impulse 2 will take off for Phoenix from Hawaii, and then make an as-yet-undetermined stop in the Midwest, followed by a landing in New York.
Since leaving Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, in March, the plane has traveled to Muscat, Oman; Ahmedabad and Varanasi, India; Mandalay, Myanmar; Chongqing and Nanjing, China; and Nagoya, Japan.
Piccard will take control of Solar Impulse 2 on the leg from Hawaii to Phoenix.
The Solar Impulse 2 flight is not the first world trip for Piccard. Piccard completed a nonstop, round-the-world balloon flight in 1999.
State officials welcomed the Solar Impulse 2 crew at an 11 a.m. news conference.
Gov. David Ige congratulated Borschberg and the Solar Impulse 2 team at the University of Hawaii hangar.
"We truly believe in a renewable future,” Ige said. "Here in Hawaii we have made a commitment to renewable energy unlike any other state in the country. Andre and Bertrand you are an inspiration to us, believing in an idea with huge challenges.”
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell declared July 3 "Solar Impulse Day" for the city and county.
“Today, July 3, is another declaration of independence, free of fossil fuel,” Caldwell said.
As the pilots made their way to the stage, the crowd cheered.
The goal for the flight was to show the capability of clean energy, Borschberg said.
"We are passionate about flying but we also want to convey another message,” he said.
Piccard congratulated Borschberg on making aviation history.
“The longest flight ever made by a solo pilot was made today by Andre,” Piccard said.
Borschberg thanked his team in Honolulu and the team at the Mission Control Center in Monaco.
"This flight would not have been possible without a lot of people," he said.
Gabbard, Mark Glick, head of the state energy office, and President of University of Hawaii David Lassner also attended the press conference.