The Solar Impulse 2 airplane finished the first leg of what the $150 million project's backers hope will be the first round-the-world flight powered by nothing but the sun.
Swiss engineer Andre Borschberg was at the controls of the single-seater plane for the Abu Dhabi-to-Oman flight, which began at about 7:12 a.m. local time (11:12 p.m. ET Sunday) and ended 13 hours later.
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Solar Impulse 2's round-the-world odyssey follows up on 2013's flight across America, which was accomplished by a prototype predecessor. This upgraded plane has a wingspan wider than a Boeing 747, and yet it weighs about as much as a family car. Solar Impulse 2 is equipped with more than 17,000 solar cells and more than 1,300 pounds of batteries — a system that stores and generates enough power to keep the plane going day and night.
The Swiss-led project is designed to demonstrate environmentally friendly technologies. "With clean technologies we can achieve the impossible — that's what we'll demonstrate," said Bertrand Piccard, the other pilot on Solar Impulse's two-man tag team.
The plane is due to take off from Muscat in Oman on Tuesday, heading for Ahmedabad in India with Piccard in the cockpit. Solar Impulse's organizers say it will be four or five months before the pilots complete the 22,000-mile circuit in Abu Dhabi.
— Alan Boyle