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The Impossible Flight

For the first time, two intrepid pilots fly a solar-powered airplane around the world.

Runtime: 1:52:58Topic: Tech + EngineeringTech & EngineeringNova

On March 9, 2015, Solar Impulse II took off from Abu Dhabi on one of the greatest aviation adventures of our time: the first solar-powered flight around the world. Together with a team of brilliant engineers, two visionary pilots—Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg—designed and built Solar Impulse from scratch, even though top airplane manufacturers told them it would be “impossible to control.” To pull it off, they had to re-invent everything, from innovative solar cells and batteries to massive carbon-fiber wings. Despite all their efforts, the performance of the plane was balanced on a knife-edge, demanding near-perfect weather conditions and hour after hour of vigilant, skillful piloting. The longest nonstop leg, from Japan to Hawaii, lasted five days and set a new world solo flight record. NOVA captures an insider’s view of the Solar Impulse pilots and ground team as they experience moments of hair-raising crisis, remarkable endurance, and ingenious problem-solving.

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