Solar Impulse: Fuel-free flight across America

The Swiss-made plane is attempting a record-breaking trip across the U.S. powered only by the sun.

The Swiss-built Solar Impulse airplane approaches New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport in the late evening of July 6, 2013. The airplane ended its two-month-long, solar-powered trip across America with a nail-biter of a flight from Washington to New York. The extra drama came from the discovery in the trip's final hours that the ultra-light airplane had suffered an 8-foot-long (2.5-meter-long) tear in the fabric on the lower side of the left wing.

Handout / AFP

Solar Impulse Chairman Bertrand Piccard, left, and pilot Andre Borschberg wave to well-wishers after the solar-powered plane's landing in New York on July 6. Piccard and Borschberg took turns in the single-seat cockpit during the plane's two-month-long trip across America.

Handout / AFP

A man takes a photograph of the tear in the wing fabric of the Solar Impulse airplane following its landing at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on July 6. The solar-powered airplane was on the final leg of its flight across the United States when the tear was discovered, forcing the plane to land several hours early.

Solar Impulse / Handout / Neils / SOLAR IMPULSE

Co-pilot Andre Borschberg watches as Solar Impulse's HB-SIA prototype, with Bertrand Piccard at the controls, lands at Washington's Dulles International Airport on June 16. Piccard flew in from Cincinnati as part of Solar Impulse's "Across America" mission - the first crossing of the United States by a solar-powered plane capable of flying day and night.

Handout / X80001

Solar Impulse is placed into a mobile hangar after its June 4 landing at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. The inflatable hangar had to be used because the airport's buildings were damaged by a powerful storm, just days before Solar Impulse's Dallas-to-St. Louis trip.

© Solar Impulse / REUTERS

Solar Impulse's HB-SIA prototype, with Bertrand Piccard at the controls, lands at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport on June 4. The aircraft took off more than 21 hours earlier from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

© Solar Impulse / REUTERS

Solar Impulse takes flight at dawn from Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix on May 22. The departure marked the start of the second leg of the "Across America" mission for the fuel-free, solar-powered aircraft.

Matt York / AP

The Solar Impulse airplane flies from Moffett Field in the San Francisco Bay Area to Phoenix on May 3.

Handout / X80001

The Solar Impulse plane takes off from Moffett Field in Mountain View, Calif., on May 3.

Josh Edelson / AFP

Escorted by a bicyclist, Solar Impulse pilot Bertrand Piccard takes off from Moffett Field in Mountain View, Calif., on May 3. The solar-powered plane is propelled by scooter-type electric motors, and achieves less-than-blazing speeds in the range of 40 to 50 mph.

Beck Diefenbach / Getty Images North America

The Solar Impulse plane stands on the runway before its take off fromt Moffett Field in Mountain View, Calif. on May 3.

John G. Mabanglo / EPA

The Solar Impulse cross-country electric aircraft flies over the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco on April 23 during a test flight in preparation for its trip across America.

Handout / X80001

Crew members return the Solar Impulse airplane to its hangar following a test flight at Moffett Field in Mountain View, Calif., on April 19.

Robert Galbraith / X90034