Science & Environment

Giant solar plane completes Spain-Morocco flight

Solar Impulse
Image caption The carbon-fibre plane is the size of an Airbus A340 but only weighs as much as an average family car

A solar-powered plane has landed in Morocco after flying from Spain, completing the second leg of its pioneering journey.

Pilot Bertrand Piccard landed the Solar Impulse in Rabat - 19 hours after taking off from Madrid.

The plane - the size of a jumbo jet - was powered by 12,000 solar cells turning four electrical motors.

The 2,500km-trip (1,550 miles), begun in Switzerland in May, is described as a rehearsal for a world tour in 2014 .

Made of carbon fibre, the plane is the size of an Airbus A340 but only weighs as much as an average family car, according to its creators.

'Silent giant'

People were able to follow the aircraft's flight progress via a virtual dashboard on Solar Impulse's website, which showed the plane's battery status, altitude and speed.

Mr Piccard was also posting live updates of his journey on Twitter ( @bertrandpiccard ). In one of his tweets, the former balloonist described the "great feeling" of gliding across southern European skies with solar-powered engines.

Image caption Mr Borschberg (L) and Mr Piccard have worked on the project for nine years

The Solar Impulse project was launched in 2003 by Mr Piccard and Swiss pilot Andre Boschberg who flew the first leg of the journey from Switzerland to Madrid in late May.

The aircraft made history in July 2010 when it became the first manned solar plane to complete a 26-hour nonstop flight.

The landmark flight proved that the sun's energy was enough to keep the plane in the air, even at night.

The organisers now hope to go on a round-the-world tour with an improved Solar Impulse model in 2014.

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