A plane powered by the sun will embark on its unprecedented flight around the world next month as its pilots seek to prove that flying is possible without fossil fuels.
That trip will include Mandalay, Burma’s second largest city.
Mandalay was confirmed as an element of the route after Burma’s President Thein Sein met the pilots and inspected the plane on an official visit to Switzerland in September.
The futuristic plane called Solar Impulse 2 is poised for take-off from Abu Dhabi to circumnavigate the globe with stop-overs in India, Burma and China before crossing the Pacific Ocean and then flying across the U.S and southern Europe, after which it will return to Abu Dhabi.
“The plan is to make attempt for the first solar flight around the world ever and to havesolar impulse airplane taking off from Abu Dhabi flying around the world through India,China, the Pacific, America, Europe and back to Abu Dhabi,” Bertrand Piccard, one of the pilots and the project’s co-founder told reporters on the sidelines of the World Future Energy summit currently under way in Abu Dhabi.
On its five-month-long historic journey of 35,000 kilometres the plane’s engines will be powered by solar energy only.
Two Swiss pilots will take turns flying the single-seater plane.
The pilot in the plane’s small cabin will spend up to five consecutive days and nights in the air. They will swap roles at points along the way.
The plane, which weighs around as much as a family car [2300 kg] and a wingspan equal to that of the largest passenger airliners, will take-off in late February and return by late July.
The plane will spend approximately 25 days flying over its five-month journey, travelling at speeds between 50 and 100 km per hour.
It took 12 years of feasibility studies, design and construction before the aircraft could start its round-the-world solar mission.
The project’s founders are working to help find environmentally-friendly methods of flying without using a drop of fuel.
“Renewable energies and clean technologies can achieve impossible things that we can bring solutions to climate change, that we can stimulate growth in the industry and job creation by bringing new cleaner solutions,” said Piccard.
The pilots say they are expecting some challenges during the flight, adding that if anything goes wrong they will build another aircraft and continue the journey.