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Record-Breaking Solar Impulse Completes Historic Atlantic Crossing

Jun 24, 2016 04:51 AM EDT
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Solar Impulse 2: Solar-powered plane makes history after completing around the world flight

Sun-powered Solar Impulse 2 has touched down in Spain after its historic 71-hour flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

Solar Impulse 2 (SI2) completed the 15th leg of its historic Atlantic crossing and landed in Seville in southern Spain in the morning of June 23 after taking off from New York on Monday.

This is the plane's longest journey so far as it officially becomes the first solar-powered plane to circle the globe.

"The Atlantic has always been this symbol of going from the Old World to the New," Solar Impulse 2 pilot Bertrand Piccard said in a report by BBC.com.

"Everybody has tried to cross the Atlantic, with sailboats, steamboats, airships, aeroplanes, even rowing boats and kitesurfs. Today, it's a solar-powered aeroplane for the first time ever, flying electric with no fuel and no pollution," he added.

Mission managers are now plotting a route to Abu Dhabi, which was where the venture began in March 2015.

The 6,000-km Atlantic journey was initially hoped to end in Paris to pay tribute to the pioneering solo crossing of Charles Lindbergh in 1927.

However, because of stormy weather in Paris, Seville was chosen as a safer destination.

The Solar Impulse's wings are covered in about 17,000 photovoltaic cells, which power the vehicle's electric motors directly and charge its lithium-ion batteries for night time flights.

The aircraft was cruising at a speed of about 70 kilometers and hour (43 mph), a speed comparable to a car rather than a plane.

Piccard and his colleague, pilot Andre Borschberg, had been taking turns in piloting SI2 on each leg of the journey.

According to a report by Mail Online, both pilots were trained to stay alert for long stretches through practicing hypnosis and meditation.

In 2015, SI2 had flown eight stages from Abu Dhabi to Kalaeloa, including a four-day, 21-hour leg over the western Pacific, which is the longest solo flight in aviation history.

However, battery damages forced the plane to lay up for 10 months for repairs.

The Swiss pilots' ultimate dream is to achieve the world's first round-the-globe solar-powered flight as part of their campaign to encourage support for clean-energy technology.

"The world of modern clean technologies, respect for the environment, innovation, pioneers - this is the world that Solar Impulse and its team would like to represent [and] promote," Piccard said while addressing the crowd of well-wishers gathered in the Seville runway.

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