Solar Impulse ends journey early due to rip in wing

A fabric rip causes the solar-powered plane to complete the last leg of its historic flight three hours earlier than scheduled.

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The Solar Impulse taking off during its final leg of a trip across America. Solar Impulse

The Solar Impulse, a solar-powered plane that made an unprecedented trip across America, finished the last leg of its flight early because of a rip in its wing.

Solar Impulse co-founder and CEO Andre Borschberg landed the plane at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York at 11:09 p.m. on Saturday, three hours earlier than scheduled, due to a rip in the fabric of on lower part of the left wing, according to a press release from the company. The trip was made to promote the clean technology.

"This last leg was especially difficult due to the damage of the fabric on the left wing. It obliged the team to envisage all the possible scenarios, including bailing out over the Atlantic. But this type of problem is inherent to every experimental endeavor. In the end, this didn't prevent us from succeeding in our 'Across America' mission and provided an invaluable learning experience in preparation for the round-the-world tour in 2015," Borschberg said in a statement shortly after he landed.

Solar Impulse makes flight across America (pictures)

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Borschberg took off at 4:46 a.m. at Washington Dulles International Airport, making the flight 18 hours and 23 minutes long.

This flight was part of a much longer journey that started at Moffett Field in Mountain View, Calif., on May 3. It has also made stops in Phoenix and Dallas. Borschberg and his co-founder Bertrand Piccard took turns flying different legs of the trip, which took a total of 105 hours and 41 minutes.

The Solar Impulse 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. The slender aircraft weighs, 3,527 pounds, about the same as a midsize car but that has a wingspan of 208 feet, matching that of a jumbo jet.

The public can check out the Solar Impulse plane at JFK International Airport on July 13 from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and on July 14 from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.