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Dublin: 4 °C Tuesday 12 November, 2019
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Solar-powered plane takes off on historic flight around the world

The Solar Impulse 2 is expected to take 25 days to fly the mammoth journey.

Image: AP Photo/Aya Batrawy

THE FIRST ATTEMPT to fly around the world in a plane using only solar power launched from Abu Dhabi on Monday on a landmark journey that will test its pilots’ endurance to the limit.

“The adventure has started,” Solar Impulse chairman Bertrand Piccard said emotionally, after pilot Andre Borschberg took off from Abu Dhabi’s Al-Bateen airport at 7:12 am local time (0412 GMT) on the historic circumnavigation aimed at promoting green energy.

The 400 kilometre (215 nautical mile) maiden leg to the Omani capital Muscat was expected to take around 12 hours.

After four hours’ flying, Borschberg was on schedule, having already entered Omani air space and covered just over a third of the distance.

The takeoff by Solar Impulse 2, which was originally scheduled for Saturday but delayed due to high winds, capped 13 years of research and testing by Swiss pilots Borschberg and Piccard.

Live video streaming on the website monitoring his progress www.solarimpulse.com showed the pilot, wearing an orange jumpsuit, breathing into an oxygen mask.

Mideast Solar Plane Source: Aya Batrawy

Borschberg had earlier attempted to give media interviews before calling his wife, according to the live feed.

Shortly before takeoff, the 63-year-old pilot tweeted that the “challenge to come is real for me & the airplane”.

The wingspan of the one-seater plane, known as the Si2, is slightly bigger than that of a jumbo jet, but its weight is around that of a family car.

From Muscat, it will make 12 stops on an epic journey spread over five months, with a total flight time of around 25 days.

It will cross the Arabian Sea to India before heading on to Myanmar, China, Hawaii and New York.

Landings are also earmarked for the midwestern United States and either southern Europe or North Africa, depending on weather conditions.

The longest single leg will see a lone pilot fly non-stop for five days and nights across the Pacific Ocean between Nanjing, China and Hawaii, a distance of 8,500 kilometres (5,270 miles).

- © AFP 2015

More: Watch the incredible moment skydivers were almost hit by a plane >

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