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Solar plane completes first leg of intercontinental journey
28/05/2012 - The Swiss sun-powered aircraft Solar Impulse has landed safely in Madrid at the end of the first leg of its attempt at an intercontinental flight without using a drop of fuel.
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Pilot Andre Borschberg launched Solar Impulse on Thursday morning from an airfield in Payerne, in western Switzerland. The aircraft, which is bound for Rabat in Morocco, landed in Madrid as scheduled early on Friday.
If successful, the 2,500 kilometre journey will be the longest to date for the aircraft, after an inaugural flight to Paris and Brussels last year.
Borschberg emerged smiling from the cockpit after the plane landed in the Spanish capital for what is expected to be a three-day technical stopover.
"The flight went very well and, thanks to the team of meteorologists, everything went according to the plan," he said. "It was extraordinary."
He added: "It was incredible to fly alongside the barrier of clouds during most of the flight and not need to hesitate to fly above them. This confirms our confidence in the capacity of solar energy even further."
The aircraft, which has the wingspan of a large airliner but weighs no more than a family car, is fitted with 12,000 solar cells feeding four electric engines.
The trip is intended as a rehearsal for the plane's round-the-world flight, planned for 2014.
The aircraft made history in July 2010 as the first manned plane to fly around the clock on the sun's energy. It stayed aloft above Switzerland for 26 hours, 10 minutes and 19 seconds, also setting a record for altitude by flying at 9,235 metres.
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