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Solar plane on round-the-world journey arrives in Arizona

Published 03/05/2016

Pilot Andre Borschberg exits the cockpit of the Swiss-made Solar Impulse 2 (AP)
Pilot Andre Borschberg exits the cockpit of the Swiss-made Solar Impulse 2 (AP)

A solar-powered plane has landed in Arizona after a day-long flight from California - the latest leg in its round-the-world journey using only energy from the sun.

The Swiss-made Solar Impulse 2 arrived in Goodyear, south-west of Phoenix, after a flight from Mountain View lasting almost 16 hours.

Pilot Andre Borschberg said it was "a beautiful flight" after stepping from the cockpit, adding: "It was a special flight; not a long flight."

Solar Impulse 2 began its globe-circling journey last year, and flew from Hawaii to the Silicon Valley last week.

After Phoenix, the plane will make two more stops in the US before crossing the Atlantic Ocean to Europe or northern Africa, according to the website documenting the journey.

For several minutes after arriving, Mr Borschberg remained aboard as powerful winds buffeted the aircraft, forcing the ground crew to hold down it down with straps.

"Sometimes it is more difficult to handle the airplane on the ground than in flight," he told reporters.

Video from cameras aboard the plane as well as on the ground at Goodyear airport showed the Solar Impulse 2 as it flew through the night sky en route to its safe touchdown.

Hours earlier, shortly after take-off, Mr Borschberg used his phone to snap photos of the sun coming up along the horizon. Then he prepared for media interviews and made breakfast plans.

"I'm heating up water for coffee," the 63-year-old told his ground crew. "A nice Nescafe."

His co-pilot, Bertrand Piccard, also of Switzerland, made the three-day trip from Hawaii to the heart of Silicon Valley, where he landed last week.

The Solar Impulse 2's wings, which stretch wider than those of a Boeing 747, are equipped with 17,000 solar cells that power propellers and charge batteries. The plane runs on stored energy at night.

The two legs to cross the Pacific were the riskiest part of the plane's travels because of the lack of emergency landing sites.

"We have demonstrated it is feasible to fly many days, many nights, that the technology works" said Mr Borschberg, who piloted the plane during a five-day trip from Japan to Hawaii and kept himself alert by doing yoga poses and meditation.

The crew was forced to stay in Oahu for nine months after the plane's battery system sustained heat damage on its trip from Japan.

The single-seat aircraft began its voyage in March last year from Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, and made stops in Oman, Burma, China and Japan.

The layovers will give the pilots a chance to swap places and engage with local communities along the way so they can explain the project, which is estimated to be costing more than 100 million dollars (£68 million) and began in 2002 to highlight the importance of renewable energy and the spirit of innovation.

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