Pilot of solar plane on around the world journey speaks to ABC7 News mid-flight

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- At various times, explorers have climbed the highest peaks and ventured deep under sea. Currently, there's an explorer betting solar power can fly him around the world.

Moffett Field is the ninth leg of Bertrand Piccard's journey. He started to circle the globe 13 months ago in Abu Dhabi all the way on solar power.

Bertrand Piccard left Hawaii on Thursday with only a life vest, a parachute and an inflatable raft in case of emergency. He's confident in his mission to circle the globe in a plane that burns no fuel. The plane collects solar energy by day and drafts power from batteries at night.

The Solar Impulse 2 flies ideally at 28 miles per hour but can double that when sun power is strong. The carbon fiber plane's wide wing span, stretching wider than a 747 can make turbulence a challenge.

"Last night there was some layers of turbulence, so I could not switch on the auto-pilot," Piccard said. "I could not sleep. I had to fly manually and then our weatherman in Monaco, they found better layer of wind that was calm. Then I could turn on the auto-pilot and sleep a little bit."

Piccard spoke to ABC7 News live Friday as he was flying high over the Pacific on Earth Day, right after using his web cam to address the United Nations. He embraces a global concern over climate change and sees technology as an opportunity.

"This is profitable. It creates jobs and it creates profits and it sustains growth of the industry because it's a new industrial market. And at the same time, it will protect the environment and fight climate change," Piccard said.

He's supported by a ground-based team in Monaco.

"We want to make it happen now, and of course, it's much more difficult to do it now, but once we succeed, then you will have everybody saying, 'OK it works. We can also do it,'" Piccard said.

Piccard and the Solar Impulse are due to land at Moffett Field Saturday night.

Click here to track the Solar Impulse.
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