Solar Impulse 2, under the control of André Borschberg, took off at 7:12 a. m. (03:12 UTC) Abu Dhabi time, on the first leg of its around-the-world voyage. The roughly 400 kilometers (215 nautical miles) between Abu Dhabi and Muscat, Oman – the airplane’s first stop – takes less than an hour by airliner and around five hours (according to Google Maps) by Maybach or lesser motor vehicle. It took André nine hours, one minute for this leg, traveling at ultralight speeds. His landing was tweeted as looking like a UFO descending, LED landing lights ablaze and advancing slowly overhead.
In the control room, Bertrand Piccard and His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco followed the flight with advice and encouragement. His Highness helps promote aviation ventures which show promise for cleaning the atmosphere, including record attempts by Jean-Luc Soullier in his electric aircraft.
(NOTE: You might have to scroll the video to the beginning to see all the action, but the landing itself begins at about the 37:00 mark.)
It’s a nice baby step, a kind of final shakedown cruise before the second leg takes it over the Gulf of Oman and the northern part of the Arabian Sea to Ahmedabad, India. That flight will be about 1,435 kilometers (892 miles) as traversed by commercial airliner, and although not delineated in Google Maps, well over 60 hours by car, taking a big loop around the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Iran, and Pakistan. Many border crossings would doubtless slow progress.
The next leg will be the longest over-water trip thus far in either Solar Impulses’ careers. Again, it’s a good trial of machine and pilot for what will be epic flights over the world’s great oceans, taking five days and nights for each major water crossing.
With the safe landing of Andre’ Borschberg in Oman, a ground crew immediately started preparing HB-SIB for its first long over water flight, which will make a hoped-for uneventful passage to India.