Solar Plane Completes 24-Hour Flight
Team proves sun can power plane more or less indefinitely
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 8, 2010 6:24 AM CDT
People look on as Solar Impulse's solar-powered HB-SIA prototype airplane stands on the runway after its first successful night flight attempt at Payerne airport, July 8, 2010.   (AP Photo/Keystone, Dominic Favre, Pool)
camera-icon View 2 more images

(Newser) – An experimental solar-powered plane landed safely today after completing its first 24-hour test flight, proving that the aircraft can collect enough energy from the sun during the day to stay aloft all night. Pilot Andre Borschberg eased the Solar Impulse onto the runway at Payerne airfield in Switzerland at exactly 9am. Helpers rushed to stabilize the pioneering plane as it touched down, ensuring that its massive 207-foot wingspan didn't scrape the ground and topple the craft.

The record feat completes seven years of planning and brings the Swiss-led project one step closer to its goal of circling the globe using only energy from the sun. "We achieved more than we wanted. Everybody is extremely happy," Borschberg told reporters after landing. "There is a before and after in terms of what people have to believe and understand about renewable energies." The team's next goal is to cross the Atlantic, followed by an around-the-world flight in 2013.