Photo of Solar Impulse 2 landing in Dayton.
André Borschberg lands Solar Impulse 2 at Dayton International Airport after a 17-hour flight from Tulsa, OK.

Solar Impulse 2 lands in Dayton

In NAHA News /

DAYTON, Ohio—The pathfinding flight around the world of the sunlight-powered Solar Impulse 2 airplane has brought it to the Birthplace of Aviation.

Swiss pilots and project leaders Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg have been flying the solar-powered airplane on marathon legs from Abu Dhabi since March 9, 2015 with the help of a large ground support team. The one-of-a-kind airplane burns no fuel, depending on 17,000 solar cells to power its four electric motors. Built of lightweight materials, the airplane’s wingspan is greater than a Boeing 747’s, but it carries only one pilot and flies at about the same speed as the Wright brothers’ first airplanes.

Piccard, the project chairman, and Borschberg, its CEO, have been making their way across the continental United States since arriving in San Francisco on April 21. After stops in Phoenix, Ariz., and Tulsa, Okla., the team announced Friday, May 20, that its next stop would be Dayton. Launching early Saturday, May 21, Borscherg touched down on Dayton International Airport at 9:46 p.m. after 17 hours of flight.

Bertrand and Borschberg have drawn parallels between their pioneering efforts and those of Wilbur and Orville Wright, the Dayton brothers who conceived and built the first airplanes capable of controlled flight in their West Third Street bicycle shop.

Making a stop in Dayton was a way of underscoring the spirit of innovation the two efforts have in common, said Piccard, who was also first to make a non-stop, around-the-world balloon flight in 1999.

Stopping in Dayton is “meaningful for a lot of reasons, but I think it’s meaningful as aviation was started, was created, was invented in this place, in this city,” Piccard said in a press conference Saturday night.

Amanda Wright Lane and Stephen Wright, great-grandniece and great-grandnephew of the Wright brothers, were at the airport to greet Borschberg and watched the airplane slowly descend, illuminated by a row of lights along the leading edge of its  wing.

“You looked like a string of pearls dropping out of the sky,” said Lane, who is also a trustee of the National Aviation Heritage Alliance (NAHA).

As of Monday, May 23, the team planned to depart Tuesday morning for New York in preparation for crossing the Atlantic Ocean. In the time available, members of the team are visiting some the National Aviation Heritage Area’s historic sites.