A Swiss solar-powered plane has
taken off from Abu Dhabi, United
Arab Emirates marking the start of
the first attempt to fly around the
world without a drop of fuel, Al
The Solar Impulse 2, piloted by
Andre Borschberg of Switzerland,
took off at 7.12am local time (0412
GMT) on Monday from the UAE’s Al-
Bateen airport and headed to
Muscat, the capital of Oman, where
it is expected to land later after the
first leg of the journey.
The developers said the aim was to
create awareness about replacing
“old polluting technologies with
clean and efficient technologies”.
Andre Borschberg, Solar Impulse
co-founder, was at the controls of
the single-seater when it took off
from the Al Bateen airport in the
UAE on Monday morning.
The take-off, which was originally
scheduled for Saturday but delayed
due to high winds, capped 13 years
of research and testing by
Borschberg and fellow Swiss pilot
The pilot would take turns to fly the
plane around the world and switch
seats during stopovers.
Two hours and 15 minutes into the
flight, Borschberg was 13 per cent
of the way to Muscat and
attempting to give media
interviews before calling his wife,
according to a website monitoring
Shortly before take-off, Borschberg,
63, said on Twitter that the
“challenge to come is real for me
and the airplane”.
“This project is a human project, it
is a human challenge,” Borschberg
said on Sunday.
The wingspan of the one-seater
plane, known as the Si2, is slightly
bigger than that of a jumbo jet, but
its weight is around that of a family
From Muscat, it will make 12 stops
on an epic journey spread over five
months, with a total flight time of
around 25 days.
It will cross the Arabian Sea to India
before heading on to Myanmar,
China, Hawaii and New York.
Landings are also earmarked for the
midwestern US and either southern
Europe or North Africa, depending
on weather conditions.
The longest single leg will see a
lone pilot fly non-stop for five days
across the Pacific Ocean between
Nanjing, China and Hawaii, a
distance of 8,500km.
Borschberg and Piccard will
alternate stints flying the plane,
which can hold only one person,
with the aircraft able to fly on
autopilot during rest breaks.
The pilots have undergone
intensive training in preparation
for the trip, including in yoga and
self-hypnosis, allowing them to
sleep for periods as short as 20
minutes but awaken feeling
All this will happen without
burning a drop of fuel.
The pilots will be linked to a
control centre in Monaco where 65
weathermen, air traffic controllers
and engineers will be stationed. A
team of 65 support staff will travel
with the two pilots.
Should a problem occur while
sleeping, the ground staff can wake
up the pilot.
“We want to share our vision of a
clean future,” Piccard, 57, who is
chairman of Solar Impulse, said of
“Climate change is a fantastic
opportunity to bring in the market
new green technologies that save
energy, save natural resources of
our planet, make profit, create jobs,
and sustain growth.”
The pilots’ idea was ridiculed by
the aviation industry when it was
But Piccard, who hails from a family
of scientist-adventurers and who in
1999 became the first person to
circumnavigate the globe in a hot
air balloon, clung to his belief that
clean technology and renewable
energy “can achieve the
The plane is powered by more than
17,000 solar cells built into wings
that, at 236ft, are longer than a
jumbo and approaching that of an
Airbus A380 superjumbo.
Thanks to an innovative design, the
lightweight carbon fibre aircraft
weighs only 2.3 tonnes, about the
same as a family 4×4 and less than
one percent of the weight of the
The Si2 is the first solar-powered
aircraft able to stay aloft for several
days and nights.