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Solar-powered plane heads to Washington

The Solar Impulse starts the fourth leg of its flight across America, but it will have to make a pit stop in Cincinnati to avoid bad weather before landing in Washington, D.C.

The Solar Impulse HB-SIA plane takes off from Lambert-St. Louis International Airport on its way to Washington, D.C. Solar Impulse | Revillard |

The solar-powered Solar Impulse is on its way to the nation's capital -- with a slight layover in Cincinnati.

The plane took off from Lambert-St.Louis International Airport early Friday morning with Solar Impulse co-founder and CEO André Borschberg at the controls. But before heading all the way to Washington, the Solar Impulse will make a pit stop at Cincinnati Municipal Lunken Airport to avoid "challenging weather."

"The flight will be split in two because strong cross and head winds would slow the aircraft and make it impossible for the pilot to reach the nation's capital in one go in less than 24 hours which is the limit set for the pilot in the cramped single-seater cockpit," according to a release.

The flight marks the start of the fourth leg of the solar-powered plane's flight across America. Bertrand Piccard, pilot and Solar Impulse co-founder, will take over the aircraft in Cincinnati and, starting on Saturday, complete the flight to Washington Dulles International Airport. He is expected to land sometime after midnight on Sunday.

The Solar Impulse HB-SIA plane started its journey across America at Moffett Field in Mountain View, Calif., on May 3. On a mission to promote the importance of clean technology, the solar-powered plane has already made stops in Phoenix, Dallas, and St. Louis. After making it to Washington, the fifth and final leg of the flight will end at JFK Airport in New York in early July.

The aircraft has 12,000 solar cells built into its wings that charge lithium batteries, enabling the plane to fly both day and night for up to 26 hours at a stretch. It has the wingspan of a large passenger jet, at 208 feet, and the weight of a small car at 3,527 pounds.