Solar-powered plane lands in Washington

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VBKWashington, June 16;The single-seater Solar Impulse plane, attempting a record-breaking trip across the U.S., made a smooth landing in Washington on Sunday, leaving it with just one more hop to go in its cross-continent journey.

The Swiss-made 63-meter-wide aircraft set down at Dulles International Airport at O4:15 GMT, with Solar Impulse chairman Bertrand Piccard at the controls.

The trip from Cincinnati Lunken Municipal Airport took more than 10 hours — an hour and a half longer than it would have taken to drive.

Solar Impulse is designed to demonstrate how solar power alone can take a plane across the country, and eventually around the world, ‘NBC News’ reported.

Although this trip didn’t set any speed records, it did include a first-ever overnight “pit stop.”

“For the first time, the solar airplane was able to enjoy a starry night under the watchful eyes of its bodyguard, the ground crew,” the Solar Impulse team said.

Saturday’s departure was delayed more than two hours due to fog at the Cincinnati airport. The condensations on Solar Impulse’s wings, which double as solar arrays, were laboriously wiped off by the crew before the plane’s takeoff.

Solar Impulse’s “Across America” adventure is aimed at highlighting the plane’s technologies and preparing the way for an even more ambitious round-the-world odyssey in 2015.

The carbon-composite plane has the wingspan of a Boeing 747 jet but is as light as a passenger car. The plane’s power is generated by the 12,000 solar cells mounted on the wings and horizontal stabiliser, the report said.

According to Piccard, the Solar Impulse’s technologies could go commercial within the next five years.

The plane’s American voyage officially began on May 3, with Solar Impulse’s takeoff from Moffett Field in California, and continued with several stopovers.

The journey is expected to end with a Washington-to-New York flight in early July.

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