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Solar Plane Arrives in Arizona on Round-the-World Flight | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Ground staff prepare to push the “Solar Impulse 2”, a solar powered plane, into a hangar after it landed at the airport in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad March 11, 2015. REUTERS

A solar-powered Swiss-made airplane midway through a historic bid to circle the globe completed the tenth leg of its journey on Monday, landing in suburban Arizona after a daylong flight from California.

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, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, where the journey began in March last year.

The zero-fuel aircraft dubbed Solar Impulse 2 arrived in the suburb of Goodyear, just to the southwest of Phoenix, shortly before 9 p.m., following a flight from San Francisco that took it over the Mojave Desert.

Occupying the tiny cockpit for the trip was project co-founder Andre Borschberg, who 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.

Borschberg called the 16-hour California-Arizona trip “a beautiful flight,” after stepping from the cockpit.

“It was a special flight; not a long flight,” he said.

Borschberg was the pilot for the Japan-to-Hawaii trip over the Pacific last July, staying airborne for nearly 118 hours.

That shattered the 76-hour world duration record for a non-stop, solo flight set in 2006 by the late American adventurer Steve Fossett in his Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer. It also set new duration and distance records for solar-powered flight.

The feat, however, dealt a setback to the plane, which suffered severe battery damage, requiring repairs and testing that grounded it in Hawaii for nine months.

Piccard, also of Switzerland, completed the trans-Pacific crossing last month, reaching San Francisco after a flight of nearly three days, more than three times the 18 hours Amelia Earhart took to fly solo from Hawaii to California in the 1930s.

The biggest difference is that the propeller-driven single-seat Solar Impulse flies without a drop of fuel, its four engines powered solely by energy collected from more than 17,000 solar cells built into its wings, which stretch wider than those of a Boeing 747.

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.

The team’s campaign is called “the future is clean.”