The Solar Impulse 2 landed in Spain on Thursday morning after completing a 70-hour flight from New York in the first solo transatlantic crossing in a solar-powered airplane.
Applause broke out as the experimental plane set down at Seville airport in southern Spain just before 7:40 am, where a team was on the ground to welcome Swiss pilot and adventurer Bertrand Piccard, an AFP correspondent said.
“It is so fantastic!” Piccard told the plane’s mission control centre in Monaco in remarks broadcast live on the Internet as the plane, which took off from New York on Monday, touched down.
“A dream is coming true,” the team had tweeted as the plane slowly approached its final destination early on Thursday after flying 6,272 kilometres (3,900 miles) across the Atlantic.
Solar Impulse, which has just completed the 15th leg of its around-the-world trip, set out on March 9, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, and has flown across Asia and the Pacific to the United States with the sun as its only source of power.
Prince Albert of Monaco, a patron of the project who had spent the entire night at the control centre, congratulated Piccard on the journey: “Bravo, it was magnificent to see!” he said from the tiny state on the French Riviera.
The voyage marks the first solo transatlantic crossing powered only by sunlight and Piccard has been getting little sleep as he survives on short catnaps.
Describing the crossing as “perfect”, Piccard said he had been guided by a group of engineers and meteorologists who had enabled him to pass through the clouds as if “through the eye of a needle”.
Solar Impulse is being flown on its 35,400-kilometre trip round the world in stages, with Piccard and his Swiss compatriot Andre Borschberg taking turns at the controls of the single-seat plane.
Borschberg piloted a 6,437-kilometre flight between Japan and Hawaii that lasted 118 hours, smashing the previous record for the longest uninterrupted journey in aviation history.
Piccard and Borschberg are no strangers to adventure. Piccard, a psychiatrist, made the first non-stop balloon flight around the world in 1999. Borschberg narrowly escaped an avalanche 15 years ago and in 2013 survived a helicopter crash with minor injuries.
(Feature Image Source: Twitter/@bertrandpiccard)