Solar Plane Lands in Arizona, 1st Leg of Major Trip

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

PHOENIX (AP) - The creators of Solar Impulse - considered the world's most-advanced sun-powered plane - say their cross-country journey will mark a milestone in aviation history.

But more importantly, Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg hope it will boost interest in the potential of renewable energy technology.

Piccard said Saturday there's so much people can do now to have a cleaner future.

Piccard is fresh off a 20-hour flight from San Francisco to Phoenix, marking the first leg of the trip across the U.S. in the solar airplane. Piccard landed the craft at Sky Harbor Airport at about 12:30 a.m., having used only three-quarters of the plane's battery power.

From Phoenix, the aircraft will travel to Dallas-Fort Worth airport in Texas, Lambert-St. Louis airport, Dulles airport in the Washington area and New York's John F. Kennedy airport. Each flight leg will take about 19 to 25 hours, with 10-day stops in each city.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Flying for several hours after sundown, a solar-powered airplane landed in Phoenix early Saturday morning on the first leg of a cross-country trip.

The Solar Impulse - considered the world's most-advanced sun-powered plane - set down about 12:30 a.m. at Sky Harbor Airport, completing part of a journey that its pilot described as a "milestone" in aviation history.

Its creators said the trip is the first attempt by a solar airplane capable of flying day and night without fuel to fly across America.

The plane left Moffett Field in Mountain View near San Francisco just after dawn Friday.

Video posted on the expedition's website showed a smiling pilot Bertrand Piccard shortly after landing, as he waved to well-wishers and held up a flag emblazoned with the Solar Impulse name.

"It's a little bit like being in a dream," Piccard said as he stepped on the tarmac.

From Phoenix, the aircraft will travel to Dallas-Fort Worth airport in Texas, Lambert-St. Louis airport, Dulles airport in the Washington area and New York's John F. Kennedy airport. Each flight leg will take about 19 to 25 hours, with 10-day stops in each city.

"All the big pioneers of the 20th century have tried to fly coast to coast across America," Piccard, one of the plane's founders, said before the flight. "So now today we're trying to do this, but on solar power with no fuel with the first airplane that is able to fly day and night just on solar power."

The plane is powered by about 12,000 photovoltaic cells that cover massive wings and charge its batteries.

The delicate, single-seat Solar Impulse flies around 40 mph and can't go through clouds. It weighs about as much as a car, making it vulnerable to bad weather.

Its creators said solar planes will never replace fuel-powered commercial flights. But the goal is to showcase the potential of solar power.

"What we look for is to have a new milestone in this very exciting history of aviation that can attract interest of the people, of the political world, of the media and show that with renewable energies and clean technology for energy efficiency, we can achieve impossible things," Piccard said.

The plane has previously impressed audiences in Europe.


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