The Swiss-built Solar Impulse plane completed the second leg of its round-the-world journey on Tuesday in Ahmedabad, India, after flying for more than 15 hours from Oman.
The solar-powered, single-seat craft took off amid the morning haze at Muscat International Airport in Oman, at 6:36 a.m. local time (10:36 p.m. ET Monday).
"Fantastic feeling," pilot Bertrand Piccard said as he headed down the runway.
The trip ended after dark in Ahmedabad, about 910 miles (1,468 kilometers) away, at 11:25 p.m. local time (1:55 p.m. ET Tuesday). Solar Impulse claimed a couple of firsts for this flight: the longest "pre-declared" straight distance flown by a solar-powered plane, and the first piloted solar-powered plane to fly in Asia.
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Solar Impulse gets all of its power from more than 17,000 solar cells on its wings, fuselage and tail. Even though its wingspan is wider than that of a Boeing 747 jet, it weighs about as much as a family car, thanks to advanced composite materials. The point of the $150 million, corporate-backed project is to demonstrate environmentally clean, efficient technologies.
"It's not only about flying the plane," Piccard said during an in-flight interview. "It's about what it means in terms of a better future and quality of life."
The round-the-world trip began in Abu Dhabi on Monday with Solar Impulse's CEO, Andre Borschberg, in the pilot's seat for 13 hours. Monday night's "pit stop" in Oman lasted just long enough to do maintenance on the plane and let the ground crew get some rest. Then Piccard, the venture's chairman, took over for the second leg.
The two pilots plan to take turns throughout the 22,000-mile odyssey, which could take as long as five months. The next stop is Varanasi, an Indian city about 670 miles (1,080 kilometers) east of Ahmedabad.
— Alan Boyle