Solar Impulse 2 arrives in Dayton, home of aviation heroes

CNN  — 

If Orville and Wilbur Wright had caught a peek of Solar Impulse 2 taking a leisurely spin through the clouds, they’d be saying, “this is right, brother.”

The craft, attempting to to be first solar-powered plane to fly around the world, landed Saturday evening in Dayton, Ohio – the birthplace of the legendary aviation pioneers.

It’s the latest leg in a journey destined for the Middle East later this year.

The plane, built with a wingspan wider than a Boeing 747, took off from Tulsa, Oklahoma, at 4:22 a.m. local time and made a 17-hour jaunt over the American heartland before it landed in Dayton.

Solar Impulse 2, which moves about the speed of an average car, is not just any aircraft.

It doesn’t need fossil fuel and its four electric engines are powered by more than 17,000 solar cells built into its lightweight, super-strong carbon fiber wings. It could be the model for the next stage of aviation.

Pilots Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard have been taking turns flying the craft since the mission began in Abu Dhabi in March 2015. Borschberg is piloting the latest leg.

Solar Impulse 2 – a funky-looking, experimental, sun-powered plane that’s attracted a lot of attention – took off from a Phoenix airport toward Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The plane encountered a series of frustrating weather delays in China that slowed progress for weeks. That was followed by an unexpected diversion to Japan, where a storm damaged the aircraft on the tarmac.

The pilots and their team of more than 100 pushed onward, repairing the aircraft and preparing for what they called “the moment of truth” – the Pacific crossing to Hawaii from Japan.

Solar Impulse 2 preparing on the tarmac of Ahmedabad, India preparing to take-off to Varanasi, India.
Behind-the-scenes look at the Solar Impulse
04:59 - Source: CNN

For almost five days and nights, Borschberg piloted the plane wearing an oxygen mask as it climbed five miles (8,000 meters) high during the day, its solar cells soaking up enough energy to propel the aircraft through the night.

While Borschberg set a new record for the solo flight, clocking in at 117 hours and 52 minutes, a chain of events caused the batteries to overheat.

It was only after he landed that the team discovered how bad the damage was.

“We made a mistake with our batteries,” Piccard said after the plane touched down in July. “It was a human mistake.”

That error took more than nine months to fix.

newday Solar Impulse pilot speaks _00015515.jpg
Where does pilot go to the bathroom?
02:25 - Source: CNN

“The record breaking solo flight of 5 days and 5 nights without fuel from Nagoya to Hawaii gives a clear message: everybody could use the plane’s technologies on the ground to halve our world’s energy consumption, save natural resources and improve our quality of life,” The Solar Impulse website said.

The craft reached California from Hawaii last month in a nearly three-day trip. It then went to Phoenix and from Phoenix to Tulsa.

The pilots plan to fly to New York and then cross the Atlantic. The Solar Impulse 2 team eventually plans to return to the Middle East by late summer, completing a 27,000-mile (43,000-kilometer) trip around the world .

It would be the last leg in a historic flight but perhaps just the latest chapter in aviation innovation. And that would be right on, brother.

CNN’s Thom Patterson, David Molko and Euan McKirdy contributed to this report.