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Solar Impulse 2 lands in California after risky Pacific Ocean crossing

The sun-powered airplane Solar Impulse 2 has landed in California after a 62-hour flight from Hawaii. It must now cross the US and the Atlantic en route to Abu Dhabi to complete its planned global circumnavigation.

Solar Impulse 2, a solar-powered aircraft attempting to fly around the world without fuel in a historic first, landed in the US state of California late on Saturday after a nearly three-day nonstop flight over the Pacific Ocean from Hawaii.

The plane landed in Mountain View, a city south of San Francisco, shortly before midnight Saturday (0645 UTC Sunday), having covered 4,500 kilometers (2,800 miles) on its journey from Hawaii.

Earlier in the day, Swiss pilot Bertrand Piccard flew the aircraft over San Francisco and its famous Golden Gate Bridge, broadcasting live images and his conversations with mission control online.

"I crossed the bridge. I am officially in America," Piccard said. "Can you imagine crossing the Golden Gate Bridge in a solar-powered plane, just like ships did in past centuries? But the plane doesn't make noise and doesn't pollute."

Piccard flew over the bridge several times on Saturday so his team, including alternate pilot Andre Borschberg in a helicopter nearby, could take photos and videos of the record-breaking flight.

The ninth stage of the round-the-world solar-powered flight attempt began in Hawaii on Thursday morning. The estimated time of arrival at Moffett Airfield in Mountain View was just before midnight local time.

The Solar Impulse control team sent out information about the flight via social media from its base in Monaco.

The flight team, which had prepared the plane in

Hawaii,

flew ahead to the landing stage in Silicon Valley to prepare the mobile hangar to shelter the plane.

Solar Impulse 2 began its attempt in March 2015 in the United Arab Emirates. So far, it has made stops in Oman, Myanmar, China and Japan.

The ideal cruising speed of the plane is 45 kilometers per hour (30 mph), although it can fly faster when the sun's rays are strongest. The carbon-fiber aircraft weighs more than 5,000 pounds (2,300 kilograms), and its wings, equipped with 17,000 solar cells, are wider than those of a Boeing 747. The cells store the energy to power the propellers and charge the batteries. The plane runs on the stored energy at night.

jm, tj/sms (AP, AFP)

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