Solar Plane Completes Flight Across Switzerland

With a wingspan that matches the Airbus A340 airliner, the plane is covered with an array of 12,000 solar cells and powered by four small electric motors.

Switzerland's sun-powered plane Solar Impulse flew across the country on Sept. 22, in a new achievement following its historic 24-hour flight.

Air traffic was temporarily halted at Zurich international airport as Solar Impulse touched down at the end of its journey at an altitude of 500 to 1,000 feet, and a speed of about 30 miles per hour, a spokeswoman said.

"This is a training for the team, for the airport" and air traffic controllers, said Bertrand Piccard, the Swiss adventurer who masterminded the project. "We wanted to show that we would not pose a major disturbance to the airport's activities."

The plane remained for 45 minutes on the runway at Zurich, before taking off again on its return trip of some 170 miles to the military air base of Payerne in the west of the country.

With a wingspan that matches the Airbus A340 airliner, the plane is covered with an array of 12,000 solar cells and powered by four small electric motors.

In July it made history by flying around the clock on the sun's energy alone, using 14 hours of sunshine to power its engines and charge its batteries for the night.

It is expected to conduct its first international flights next year, before undertaking a world tour in 2013 or 2014.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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