Solar Impulse flies 957 miles to set world record

The longest leg of the cross-country tour marks a distance record for solar-powered aviation as the slender aircraft touches down in Texas.

The Solar Impulse lands in Texas.
The Solar Impulse lands in Texas. Solar Impulse

The solar-powered Solar Impulse plane has set a world's record, and its journey across America still has a few more legs to go.

Flying the second and longest leg of the journey, pilot Andre Borschberg landed the plane in Dallas/Fort Worth on Thursday, achieving a record for the longest distance flown by a solar-powered aircraft. The 1,541 kilometers (957 miles or 832 nautical miles) beat the previous record of 1,116 kilometers (602 nautical miles) held by Borschberg when he flew the Solar Impulse from Switzerland to Spain in May 2012.

Borschberg, the CEO and co-founder of Solar Impulse, took off on Wednesday from the Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Ariz., and remained in the air for 18 hours and 21 minutes before reaching Dallas/Fort Worth. The flight attained an average ground speed of 84 kilometers per hour (53 mph) and reached altitudes as high as 8,230 meters (27,000 feet or around 5 miles).

"This leg was particularly challenging because of fairly strong winds at the landing," Borschberg said in a statement. "It also was the longest flight -- in terms of distance -- ever flown by a solar airplane. You have to understand that the pilot needs to stay awake for more than 20 hours without any autopilot."

For the third leg, the Solar Impulse will travel to Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, where fellow pilot Bertrand Piccard will take the helm. The craft will then move onto its fourth leg, flying to Washington, D.C. The fifth and final leg will see the plane land at JFK airport in New York City to complete its flight across America sometime in early July.

Helped by its array of 12,000 solar cells, Solar Impulse can fly both day and night. At 208 feet, its wingspan matches that of a large passenger jet. Clean energy is the goal behind the Solar Impulse project as the plane tries to wend its way across America without using any fuel. The team is eyeing a flight around the world sometime in 2015.

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