PAYERNE, Switzerland (AFP) - The Swiss sun-powered aircraft Solar Impulse on Thursday took off for Morocco on its first intercontinental flight attempt without using a drop of fuel.
Pilot Andre Borschberg successfully launched the plane from an airfield in Payerne in western Switzerland at around 8:30am (0630 GMT), bound for Rabat via Madrid, after a two-hour delay due to foggy conditions. If successful the 2,500-kilometre (1,550-mile) journey would be the longest to date for the craft after an inaugural flight to Paris and Brussels last year.
The high-tech aircraft, which has the wingspan of a large airliner but weighs no more than a saloon car, is fitted with 12,000 solar cells feeding four electric engines. Borschberg was expected to land at Madrid’s Barajas airport at about 1:00 am on Friday for a three-day technical stopover, organisers said.
Checks would be carried out and depending on the weather conditions second pilot Bertrand Piccard would depart for Rabat on Monday.

Published in The Nation newspaper on 25-May-2012