Solar-powered plane lands in Phoenix

May 4, 2013 at 10:45 AM
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PHOENIX, May 4 (UPI) -- A Swiss-made solar-powered airplane landed in Phoenix Saturday, completing the first leg of its trip across the United States, its designer said.

The plane, called Solar Impulse, took off at 6 a.m. Friday from Moffett Field in San Francisco and landed at Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport at 12:30 a.m. Saturday, NBC News reported.

"It's a little bit like being in a dream," adventurer Bertrand Piccard, who piloted the plane on its more than 18-hour journey, said after landing.

The plane has a 208-foot wing covered with 12,000 solar cells to power its four electric motors while simultaneously charging batteries, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"It's never boring because it's the most revolutionary airplane that exists -- an airplane that flies day and night with no fuel," Piccard said in an interview during the flight.

Piccard and engineer Andre Borschberg, both Swiss nationals, created the plane with funds they began raising in 2003.

Solar Impulse made its first night flight in Switzerland in 2010 and its first international flight, from Switzerland to Belgium to France, in 2011.

"A flying laboratory for clean technologies, this prototype is the result of seven years of intense work in the fields of materials science, energy management and man-machine interface," Borschberg said before the American flight.

From Arizona the plane will travel to Dallas-Fort Worth, then to St. Louis, then Washington, and finally end its journey across the United States in New York. The journey is expected to be completed by July 4.

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