Solar Impulse 2 arrives in Dayton, home of aviation heroes

Joe Sterling, CNNUpdated 22nd May 2016
Up next
Solar Impulse 2 pilot recounts historic flight
Pilot: Solar-powered plane proving the impossible
Solar-powered plane touches down in California
Solar plane hopes to circumnavigate the globe
Solar Impulse II plane nears its destination
Solar plane starts second leg in trip around the world
Solar-powered plane attempts first global flight
Where does pilot go to the bathroom?
Solar plane set for round-the-world flight
(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.
The journey has been long, arduous and challenging. The pilots first made their way to Oman, India and Myanmar.
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.
CNN's David Molko gets a behind-the-scenes look at the challenges the Solar Impulse pilots face on their round-the-world journey.
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 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. Nevertheless, the historic flight is a game changer for aviation and a shout-out for solar power.
Hear from the pilot of the Solar Impulse about his habits on board the first manned plane to fly 24 hours on sun power.
"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.