THE FIVE-MONTH JOURNEY of a single-seat, solar-powered plane around the planet got off to a successful start this morning, when Solar Impulse 2touched down in Oman after a 13-hour flight from Abu Dhabi.
“The flight went really well, everything went as planned,” says a team spokesperson. It’s an auspicious start, but a small step (about 270 miles) on the 20,000-mile journey that will take about 500 hours of flying time. Pilot André Borschberg flew the first leg, his partner Bertrand Piccard will take off next.
The 5,000-pound, zero-emission plane has a wingspan longer than that of the Boeing 747. Solar panels covering the aircraft’s wings and fuselage charge up four extra-efficient batteries, which power the 17.4-horsepower motors. That’s enough juice to move the plane at 20 to 90 mph, a speed closer to that of a professional cyclist than your typical gas-powered plane.