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Solar 'Impulse' Plane Arrives in China

  • VOA News

Swiss pilots Bertrand Piccard waves his hand before Solar Impulse 2 takes off at Mandalay international airport, Myanmar, March 30, 2015.

Swiss pilots Bertrand Piccard waves his hand before Solar Impulse 2 takes off at Mandalay international airport, Myanmar, March 30, 2015.

A solar-powered Swiss airplane arrived in China as part of the fifth leg of its around-the-world journey without any fuel.

The plane touched down in Chongqing, some 20 hours after leaving Myanmar.

The carbon fiber single-seater Solar Impulse 2 aircraft has a 72-meter wingspan, which is longer than the wingspan of a Boeing 747, and weighs about as much as a car. The 17,000 solar cells built into the wings harness the sun's energy, allowing it to fly through the night.

"Solar Impulse wants to mobilize public enthusiasm in favor of technologies that will allow decreased dependence on fossil fuels, and induce positive emotions about renewable energies,'' a statement on the official mission website said. The site maps out the plane's location and broadcasts audio from the cockpit in real time.

Map showing approximate route of the Solar Impulse 2

Map showing approximate route of the Solar Impulse 2

The Si2 took 12 years to build and is the brainchild of two Swiss scientists, Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg.

The two say they are not out to revolutionize the aviation industry, but are instead aiming to demonstrate that actual alternative energy sources and new technologies can achieve what some consider impossible.

The aircraft's route includes stops in Oman, India, Myanmar and China. After crossing the Pacific Ocean via Hawaii, the plane will also make up to three stops in the U.S., touching down in Phoenix, Arizona and New York City, and possibly another location depending on weather conditions.

The final legs after crossing the Atlantic include a stopover in southern Europe or North Africa before arriving back in Abu Dhabi in late July or early August.

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