Solar plane lands in Hawaii after record-breaking flight

Solar-Powered Plane Sets Record For Longest Flight Without Refueling

KAPOLEI, Hawaii (AP) — A plane powered by the sun's rays landed in Hawaii Friday after a record-breaking five-day journey across the Pacific Ocean from Japan.

Pilot Andre Borschberg and his single-seat aircraft landed at Kalaeloa, a small airport outside Honolulu. His nearly 118-hour voyage from Nagoya broke the record for the world's longest nonstop solo flight, his team said. The late U.S. adventurer Steve Fossett set the previous record of 76 hours when he flew a specially-designed jet around the globe in 2006.

But Borschberg flew the Solar Impulse 2 without fuel. Instead, its wings were equipped with 17,000 solar cells that powered propellers and charged batteries. The plane ran on stored energy at night.

The trans-Pacific leg was the riskiest of the plane's global travels as there was nowhere for it to land in an emergency.

See photos of the plane's journey:

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Solar Impulse 2: Trip around the world
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Solar plane lands in Hawaii after record-breaking flight
Andre Borschberg of Switzerland, a pilot of the Solar Impulse 2 speaks to journalists prior to board his plane at the Nagoya airport in Nagoya on June 24, 2015. Mission controllers cancelled the planned take-off of the Solar Impulse 2 from Nagoya in central Japan early Wednesday because of weather problems in the Pacific Ocean. AFP PHOTO / TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA (Photo credit should read TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images)
NAGOYA, JAPAN - JUNE 29: In this handout image provided by Global Newsroom, Solar Impulse 2, a solar power plane, getting ready to take off from Nagoya Komaki airport tonight at 3:03 am on June 29, 2015. The plane is en route to Hawaii after spending an unscheduled four-week stopover due to bad weather. The 5-day flight to Hawaii will be the eighth and longest of the pioneering plane's 35,000-kilometer journey. (Photo by Jean Revillard/SI2/Global Newsroom via Getty Images)
Andre Borschberg of Switzerland waves while boarding his Solar Impulse 2 prior to his departure for Hawaii at the Nagoya airport in Nagoya on June 24, 2015. The solar plane that has been trapped in Japan for three weeks will take off early June 24, the team confirmed, on the most challenging leg of an attempt to circumnavigate the world without using fuel. AFP PHOTO / TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA (Photo credit should read TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images)
NAGOYA, JAPAN - JUNE 29: In this handout image provided by Global Newsroom, pilot Andre Borschberg during the final preparation of Solar Impulse 2, a solar power plane, from Nagoya Komaki airport tonight at 3:03 am on June 29, 2015. The plane is en route to Hawaii after spending an unscheduled four-week stopover due to bad weather. The 5-day flight to Hawaii will be the eighth and longest of the pioneering plane's 35,000-kilometer journey. (Photo by Jean Revillard/SI2/Global Newsroom via Getty Images)
Pilot Andre Borschberg of Switzerland (C, top), sits aboard Solar Impulse 2, as ground crew pushes the solar plane prior to taking off for Hawaii, at Nagoya's airport early June 24, 2015. The solar plane that has been trapped in Japan for three weeks will take off early June 24, the team confirmed, on the most challenging leg of an attempt to circumnavigate the world without using fuel. AFP PHOTO / TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA (Photo credit should read TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images)
NAGOYA, JAPAN - JUNE 29: In this handout image provided by Global Newsroom, Solar Impulse 2, a solar power plane, getting ready to take off from Nagoya Komaki airport tonight at 3:03 am on June 29, 2015. The plane is en route to Hawaii after spending an unscheduled four-week stopover due to bad weather. The 5-day flight to Hawaii will be the eighth and longest of the pioneering plane's 35,000-kilometer journey. (Photo by Jean Revillard/SI2/Global Newsroom via Getty Images)
NAGOYA, JAPAN - JUNE 29: In this handout image provided by Global Newsroom, Yasemin and Andre Borschberg prior to the take off of Solar Impulse 2, a solar power plane, from Nagoya Komaki airport tonight at 3:03 am on June 29, 2015. The plane with pilot Borschberg is en route to Hawaii after spending an unscheduled four-week stopover due to bad weather. The 5-day flight to Hawaii will be the eighth and longest of the pioneering plane's 35,000-kilometer journey. (Photo by Jean Revillard/SI2/Global Newsroom via Getty Images)
NAGOYA, JAPAN - JUNE 29: In this handout image provided by Global Newsroom, Solar Impulse 2, a solar power plane, getting ready to take off from Nagoya Komaki airport tonight at 3:03 am on June 29, 2015. The plane is en route to Hawaii after spending an unscheduled four-week stopover due to bad weather. The 5-day flight to Hawaii will be the eighth and longest of the pioneering plane's 35,000-kilometer journey. (Photo by Jean Revillard/SI2/Global Newsroom via Getty Images)
Pilot Andre Borschberg of Switzerland (R, top), sits aboard Solar Impulse 2, as ground crew pushes the solar plane prior to taking off for Hawaii, at Nagoya's airport early June 24, 2015. The solar plane that has been trapped in Japan for three weeks will take off early June 24, the team confirmed, on the most challenging leg of an attempt to circumnavigate the world without using fuel. AFP PHOTO / TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA (Photo credit should read TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images)
Andre Borschberg of Switzerland (4th R) poses next to the Japanese and the Swiss national flags while boarding his Solar Impulse 2 prior to his departure for Hawaii at the Nagoya airport in Nagoya on June 24, 2015. The solar plane that has been trapped in Japan for three weeks will take off early June 24, the team confirmed, on the most challenging leg of an attempt to circumnavigate the world without using fuel. AFP PHOTO / TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA (Photo credit should read TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images)
The Solar Impulse 2 aircraft takes off from the Nagoya airport in Aichi prefecture, central Japan on June 29, 2015 for a flight over the Pacific Ocean. Solar Impulse 2 has 17,000 solar cells and on-board rechargeable batteries. Its top speed is 140 kilometres an hour. The journey to Hawaii is 7,900 kilometers and is expected to last at least five days and five nights. AFP PHOTO / JIJI PRESS JAPAN OUT (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
Swiss pilots Andre Borschberg (L) and Bertrand Piccard (R) of Solar Impulse 2, the world's only solar-powered aircraft, react upon their arrival at Mandalay international airport on March 19, 2015. Solar Impulse 2 took off from the Indian holy city of Varanasi for Myanmar, its fourth flight after embarking on a landmark journey to circumnavigate the globe powered solely by the sun. (Ye Aung Thu/AFP/Getty Images)
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The engineless aircraft landed in silence, the only sound the hum of a nearby helicopter. About 200 people, including the media, witnessed the touch-down shortly before 6 a.m.

Later in the morning, Borschberg called the flight an extraordinary experience, saying it marked historical firsts for aviation and for renewable energy.

"Nobody now can say that renewable energies cannot do the impossible," he said. The most challenging part of the journey was when he and fellow Swiss co-pilot Bertrand Piccard had to decide when exactly to leave Japan.

"You don't know if it's feasible. You don't know if it's possible. You don't know if you are going to lose the airplane," he said.

Borschberg, who did yoga up to 45 minutes daily to counter the effects of immobility and stay fit, remained in the plane for about an hour after landing before finally emerging. Before exiting, he was approached by customs personnel who asked to see his passport. Some in the waiting crowd waved Swiss flags, and dignitaries shook his hand. A troupe of young hula performers sang a welcoming song in Hawaiian.

The plane's ideal flight speed is about 28 mph though that can double during the day when sun's rays are strongest. The carbon-fiber aircraft weighs over 5,000 pounds or about as much as a minivan or mid-sized truck.

Borschberg and Piccard have been taking turns flying the plane on an around-the-world trip since taking off from Abu Dhabi in March. After Hawaii, the plane will head to Phoenix and then New York. Piccard will make the flight to Phoenix, organizers said in a press release.

The project, which began in 2002 and is estimated to cost more than $100 million, is meant to highlight the importance of renewable energy and the spirit of innovation. Solar-powered air travel is not yet commercially practical, however, given the slow travel time, weather and weight constraints of the aircraft.

The plane is visiting Hawaii just as the state has embarked on its own ambitious clean energy project. Gov. David Ige last month signed legislation directing Hawaii's utilities to generate 100 percent of their electricity from renewable energy resources by 2045. The utilities currently get 21 percent of their power from renewable sources.

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Marco Garcia contributed to this report.

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The long headline of this story has been corrected to reflect that only one pilot was onboard at time of landing.

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