Solar Impulse 2 plane lands in Oklahoma | News | DW | 13.05.2016
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Solar Impulse 2 plane lands in Oklahoma

An experimental solar-powered plane has successfully completed another leg of its emissions-free trip around the world. Solar Impulse 2 landed as planned in the US state of Oklahoma after a 20-hour trip.

The Solar Impulse 2 landed at Tulsa International Airport shortly after 11 p.m. Thursday local time (0400 UTC Friday), about 20 hours after it left Phoenix, Arizona, on a 1,050-mile (1,700-kilometer) leg of its 21,700-mile journey around the world.

"The flight was very interesting," Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard said from the cockpit in comments broadcast live just after the landing. "Especially the first part above Arizona and New Mexico, the landscapes were fantastic."

The flight went "very well," Solar Impulse team member Christoph Schlettig said. "This feels like a really great success," he added.

The Swiss-made flyer began its around-the-world voyage in March 2015 from the United Arab Emirates. Two pilots alternate flying the solar-powered plane, which weighs as much as a large car but has a wingspan larger than that of a 747 airplane- Solar Impulse 2 stores energy for the overnight portion of its flights.

Solar power

Powered by 17,000 solar cells that convert sunlight into energy to turn the propellers and charge the plane's battery, Solar Impulse's journey is aimed at promoting clean energy.

The plane has made stops in Oman, Myanmar, China, Japan, Hawaii and California. But during the flight from Japan to Hawaii excessive heat damaged the plane's battery system, forcing a nine-month layover in Hawaii.

That leg of the flight was piloted by Piccard's teammate, Andre Borschberg. The 118-hour journey smashed the previous time aloft record of 76 hours and 45 minutes set by US adventurer Steve Fossett in 2006.

Borschberg could only catnap for 20 minutes at a time in order to maintain control of the pioneering plane during its five-day flight, in what his team described as "difficult" conditions.

The plane's normal cruising speed is just about 30 miles per hour (50 kph), but with a good dose of sunlight that speed can nearly double.

The plane is expected to make one or two more stops before landing in New York.

"The objective is to reach New York as soon as possible!" the Solar Impulse 2 team said in a statement. But it remains unclear when it might reach the east coast of the United States.

An inflatable mobile hangar, which can be packed up quickly and transported, allows the Solar Impulse 2 to be sheltered in at each location.

bik/sms (AP, AFP)

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