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Solar plane completes second leg of cross-country flight in Texas

Solar plane completes second leg of cross-country flight in Texas

A solar airplane that developers hope to eventually pilot around the globe landed safely on Thursday in Texas, completing the second and longest leg of an attempt to fly across the United States powered only by the sun.

The spindly experimental aircraft, dubbed Solar Impulse, touched down at Dallas/Forth Worth International Airport shortly after 1 a.m. local time, logging 18 hours and 21 minutes in the air to cover 823 nautical miles from Arizona.

The flight set a new absolute world distance record in solar aviation, organizers said.

Solar Impulse, which flies at an average pace of just 43 miles per hour (69 km per hour), began its cross-country sojourn on May 3 with an 18-hour-plus flight from northern California to Phoenix.

After additional stops in St. Louis and Washington, D.C., pausing at each destination to wait for favorable weather, the flight team hopes to conclude the plane’s voyage at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport in early July.

Swiss pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, the co-founders of the project, are taking turns flying the plane, which has a single-seat cockpit.

Piccard piloted the first leg from California to Arizona, and Borschberg flew the second stretch to Texas.

“This leg was particularly challenging because of fairly strong winds at the landing,” Borschberg said in a statement released after the flight. He already held the record for the longest-duration flight in a solar-powered plane – 26 hours.

The Solar Impulse project began in 2003 with a 10-year budget of 90 million euros ($112 million) and has involved engineers from Swiss escalator maker Schindler and research aid from Belgian chemicals group Solvay – backers that want to test new materials and technologies while also gaining brand recognition.