First solar-powered round-the-world flight takes off

Reuters

Posted at Mar 09 2015 05:03 PM | Updated as of Mar 10 2015 01:05 AM

The Solar Impulse 2 takes off at Al Bateen airport in Abu Dhabi, at the start of an attempt to fly around the world in the solar-powered plane. Photo by Ahmed Jadallah, Reuters

Two Swiss pilots on Monday embarked on an attempt to fly around the world on a solar-powered airplane that is expected to last for five months and is aimed at promoting clean technology in the aviation sector.

Solar Impulse 2 took off from Abu Dhabi just after dawn on Monday and will have stopovers in India, Myanmar and China before crossing the Pacific Ocean and flying across the United States and southern Europe to arrive back in Abu Dhabi.

Swiss adventurers Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg are taking turns piloting the single-seat, 2,300-kilogram airplane on its pioneering flight.

"I guess we're both in the level of excitement which is special, but excitement but also concentration and simply happiness," said an emotional Borschberg before take-off.

On its five-month journey of 35,000 km (22,000 miles), the engines will be powered only by solar energy.

The plane, which has the weight of a family car (2,300 kg, 5,100 pounds) and a wingspan equal to that of the largest passenger airliners, will return by late July. Its journey will span approximately 25 flight days at speeds between 50 and 100 km (30 to 60 miles) per hour.