A solar-powered plane began its cross-country journey under bright sunshine early Friday, lifting off from Moffitt Field for a 20-25 hour flight to Phoenix, officials said.
Plans call for the Solar Impulse to fly to Phoenix and make stops in Dallas, St. Louis and Washington, D.C. before finally arriving at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport.
Each flight leg will take 20-25 hours. The plane is expected to stay at each stop for about 10 days and scheduled to arrive in late May in St. Louis, home to one of aviation's greatest pioneers, Charles Lindbergh.
The Solar Impulse — with the wingspan of a Boeing 747 but as light as a car — is powered by about 12,000 photovoltaic cells that cover the wings and charge its batteries, allowing it to fly day and night without jet fuel.
It is designed to showcase the potential of solar power and will never replace fuel-powered commercial flights. The single-seat plane cruises at around 40 mph.
Solar Impulse founders Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg will take turns flying the plane.
Borschberg, in a statement, called the plane "a flying laboratory for clean technologies." He said the prototype has been in the works for seven years.
The flight will be streamed live on Solar Impulse's website, http://www.solarimpulse.com/en/tag/across-america .
Solar Impulse Developers hope to be able to fly around the world within two years.
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