Round-the-World Solar Impulse Plane Lands in Mandalay

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/ Source: Associated Press

A solar-powered plane landed in Myanmar on Thursday night, completing the fourth leg of a round-the-world trip aimed at highlighting clean energy.

Dozens of trees had to be cleared ahead of the Solar Impulse 2's arrival at the Mandalay International Airport for its giant mobile hangar and exhibition tent, said Taik Aung, the country's director of air navigation and safety division. Towering shrubs along the runway also needed to be trimmed to accommodate the plane's 236-foot (72-meter) wingspan, said Corinne Henchoz Pignani, of the Swiss Embassy in Yangon.

Solar Impulse 2 — the first aircraft powered by solar energy — has 12 scheduled halts during its five-month journey. Swiss pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg are taking turns flying the aircraft, which is powered by more than 17,000 solar cells on its wings that recharge the plane's batteries.

The single-seat, Swiss-made plane left the northern Indian town of Varanasi early Thursday after several weather delays, flew over the Bay of Bengal and reached Mandalay at 7:50 p.m. local time (9:20 a.m. ET). The flight has attracted attention from people who see solar power as a future source of clean, renewable energy.

Solar Impulse 2 is scheduled to continue onward to Chongqing and Nanjing in China. It then heads over the Pacific Ocean, with a stopover in Hawaii. The plane is due to cross the U.S. mainland, fly over the Atlantic Ocean and return to Abu Dhabi, where the odyssey began March 8.

The flights over the Pacific and Atlantic oceans will require up to five days and five nights of flying solo. But the pilots have prepared for the exhaustive long stretches: Borschberg has been practicing yoga, while Piccard uses self-hypnosis to calm himself.

— The Associated Press