Solar-powered plane lands in India on 2nd leg of world trip

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015
Solar Impulse
In this Monday, March 9, 2015 photo released by Solar Impulse, a Swiss solar-powered plane lands in Muscat, Oman, after it took off from Abu Dhabi early Monday.
images-AP Photo/Jean Revillard and Olga Stefatou, Solar Impulse

AHMADABAD, India -- A Swiss-made solar powered aircraft landed in western India on Tuesday night, completing the second leg - and its first sea crossing - of its historic round-the-world trip.

The Solar Impulse 2 touched down at Ahmadabad airport in Gujarat state about 16 hours after it took off from Muscat, Oman, for the 1,465-kilometer (910-mile) flight without a drop of fuel.

The world's first aircraft powered by solar energy was to remain in Ahmadabad for two days before flying to the holy city of Varanasi in northern India on Saturday.

The Swiss pilots, Bertrand Piccard and Andre Boschberg, will take turns at the controls of the aircraft during their 35,000-kilometer (21,700-mile) journey.

The aircraft's wings are covered by more than 17,000 solar cells that recharge the plane's batteries. It flies ideally at around 25 knots, or 45 kph (28 mph).

On Monday, Borschberg, who co-founded the Solar Impulse company that built the plane, flew the Si2 from Abu Dhabi, the capital of United Arab Emirates, to nearby Oman in the first leg of the epic journey.

The Swiss explorers say their aim is to highlight the importance of renewable energy and the spirit of innovation. They say the visionary journey is a "strong message for clean technologies."

Si2 is slated to make 12 stops during its 35,000-kilometer (21,700-mile) journey, including in China and Myanmar, before it crosses over the Pacific Ocean. It will then land in Hawaii and the U.S. Midwest and East Coast before flying over the Atlantic Ocean. It may also stop in southern Europe or North Africa, depending on weather conditions.

Some legs of the trip, such as over the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, will mean five days and five nights of flying solo. Both pilots have been training hard for this journey, which will span 25 flight days over five months.

The Si2 aircraft has a wingspan of 72 meters (236 feet), spanning larger than a Boeing 747 jumbo jet. At around 2,300 kilograms (5,070 pounds), the Si2 weighs about as much as a minivan or mid-sized truck. An empty Boeing 747, in comparison, weighs some 180,000 kilograms (400,000 pounds).