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Solar Impulse solar-powered aircraft lands in China after 20-hour flight from Myanmar

On the latest stage of its record-breaking, round the world journey the solar-powered Solar Impulse 2 aircraft has landed in China. The flight from Myanmar took 20-and-a-half hours.

Swiss pilot Bertrand Piccard landed the revolutionary plane in Chongqing airport early on Tuesday morning local time (1735 UTC). It was the first ever single-seater solar aircraft to enter China.

Flying above the mountainous Chinese provinces of Yunnan and Sichuan meant a steep climb at the beginning of the journey. Flying at high altitude, Piccard had to wear an oxygen mask in the 3.8 square-meter, unpressurized cockpit as temperatures dropped to minus 20 degrees celsius on the 1,375-kilometer (854-mile) route. Strong low level winds greeted the flight as it arrived in Chongqing.

Flight director, Raymond Clerc, said the journey from Mandalay to Chongqing was the most difficult of the five stages so far. "We are tired but we are still very, very happy to be in Chongqing," mission engineer Michael Anger wrote on the project's website.

Solar Impulse 2, part of a project to promote green energy, has more than 17,000 solar cells.

Piccard and André Borschberg

are the founders, pilots and driving force behind Solar Impulse. It is the first aircraft able to fly day and night without fuel, propelled solely by the sun's energy. It has a wingspan of 72 meters, wider than a Boeing 747, but weighs just 2.3 tons. Its average speed is 70 kilometers per hour.

The flight has already set two records for solar-powered flight. The first was for the longest distance covered - the 1,468 kilometers from Muscat, Oman to Ahmedabad, India. The second was for the speed of 117 knots (216 kilometers per hour) reached during the leg to Mandalay from Varanasi, India.

Solar Impulse 2 began its journey in Abu Dhabi on March 9 and made four stops before arriving in China. It flies next to the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing before heading to Hawaii. It is due back in Abu Dhabi in August after its journey of 12 stages.

jm/bk (AP, AFP)

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