Little more than a century after the Wright brothers launched a gas-powered airplane from a sandhill outside Kitty Hawk, a team of Swiss explorers took off Sunday for their own run at aviation history, in a plane fueled only by sunlight.
Strapped into the cramped, single-seat cockpit of a plane called the Solar Impulse 2, former fighter pilot André Borschberg lifted off just after 11 p.m. EDT Sunday from a military airport near the Strait of Hormuz and began the first leg in a quest to fly a solar-powered craft around the world.
Borschberg will head first to Muscat, Oman, gradually climbing toward 28,000 feet (8,500 meters) as a vast array of solar panels stretched across the wing tops and fuselage drink in sunlight and power the craft’s four electric engines. After Oman the plane will continue east, visiting cities in India and China before attempting to reach Hawaii on a perilous, multi-day crossing of the Pacific.
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