Solar-powered plane takes on Atlantic as part of round-the-world bid

The flight is expected to take approximately 90 to 110 hours before landing in Seville Airport, Spain Photograph:( Reuters )

Reuters New York, United States Jun 20, 2016, 10.07 AM (IST)
A solar-powered airplane left the United States today, taking off from New York City to fly across Atlantic for its historic bid to circle the globe.

The spindly, single-seat experimental aircraft, dubbed as Solar Impulse 2, left New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport at about 2:30 am local time (0630 GMT)  today.

The flight is expected to take approximately 90 to 110 hours before landing in Seville Airport, Spain, said the project team.

The Swiss team flying the aircraft in a campaign to build support for clean energy technologies hopes eventually to complete its circumnavigation in Abu Dhabi, where the journey began in March 2015.

The solar craft's cruising speed, akin to that of a car, required pilots to take up meditation and hypnosis in training to stay alert for long periods.

Andre Borschberg alternates with fellow pilot Bertrand Piccard at the controls for each segment of what they hope will be the first round-the-world solar-powered flight.

On April 24, Piccard landed in San Francisco, completing a trans-Pacific crossing after a nearly three-day trip that began in Hawaii. The flight took more than three times the 18 hours for Amelia Earhart to fly solo from Hawaii to California in the 1930s.

The propeller-driven Solar Impulse flies without a drop of fuel and its four engines are powered solely by energy collected from more than 17,000 solar cells built into its wings.

Surplus power is stored in four batteries during the day, to keep the plane aloft on extreme long-distance flights.

The carbon-fiber plane, with a wingspan exceeding that of a Boeing 747 and the weight of a family car, is unlikely to set speed or altitude records. It can climb to 28,000 feet (8,500 m), and cruise at 34 to 62 mph (55 to 100 kph).

In a precursor of their globe-circling quest, the two men completed a multi-flight crossing of the United States with an earlier version of the solar plane in 2013.