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The Solar Impulse aircraft as seen via webcam
A solar powered plane made history on Thursday after completing a 24 hour flight powered entirely by the sun’s rays. Pilot Andre Borschberg and the Solar Impulse plane landed in Payerne, Switzerland at 07:01 UT after becoming the first solar powered plane to ever fly throughout the night.
Borschberg was ecstatic after a safe landing in western Switzerland. He immediately referred to "before and after", with team chief Bertrand Piccard describing a new "era" of travel with clean technology.
“It’s the first time ever that a solar airplane has flown through the night,” Piccard had said earlier.
During the hours of darkness the plane flew using energy stored in its 12,000 solar cells through the 14 hours of daylight.
Borschberg, a 57-year-old fighter pilot and a professional airplane and helicopter pilot, had spent more than 26 hours confined to the cockpit of the single seater solar aircraft, but was described by Flight director Claude Nicollier as in “good spirits physically and mentally”.
The Solar Impulse has a wingspan of 63 metres – the size of an Airbus A340 aircraft, and despite concerns over the use of the stored energy during night time, it emerged from the darkness with three hours of energy left.
“What we have done today in the air is an example of what should be done on the ground,” said Piccard.