World’s largest solar plane embarked on 90-hour flight across the Atlantic as part of round-the-world bid

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The spindly, single-seat Solar Impulse 2 left John F. Kennedy International Airport at about 02:30 EDT (07.30 BST) on Monday, and is expected to land in Spain or France sometime on Thursday. An aeroplane powered entirely by energy from the sun began its journey across the Atlantic this morning, on one of the longest legs of its journey around the world.

This is the 15th leg of Solar Impulse 2’s round-the-world journey , which is the first ever attempt to fly around the globe without using a drop of fuel.

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Bertrand Piccard of Switzerland boards his solar powered aircraft Solar Impulse 2 as he prepares to takes off from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York early on June 20, 2016
Bertrand Piccard of Switzerland boards the solar powered aircraft Solar Impulse 2

Swiss aviators Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg have been taking turns piloting the plane, which harvests energy from the sun using more than 17,000 solar cells built into the wings.

Piccard will remain at the controls for the entire transatlantic flight, which is expected to take up to 90 hours.

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Bertrand Piccard of Switzerland boards his solar powered aircraft Solar Impulse 2 as he prepares to takes off from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York early on June 20, 2016

The aeroplane’s slow cruising speed, similar to that of a car, has required both men to take up meditation and hypnosis as part of training to stay alert for long periods.

The carbon-fiber, propeller-driven plane has four solar-powered engines and four batteries to store surplus energy. Its wing span exceeds that of a Boeing 747.

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The Solar Impulse 2 aircraft is pulled from the hangar as it is prepares for take off from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York early on June 20, 2016
The Solar Impulse 2 aircraft is pulled from the hangar as it is prepares for take off from John F. Kennedy International Airport

It weighs the same as a family car and can climb to 28,000 feet (8,500 m).

The precise location of Solar Impulse 2’s landing will be determined later, depending on weather conditions, said Elizabeth Banta, a spokeswoman for the project team.

The team behind Solar Impulse – part of a campaign to build support for clean energy technologies – hopes to complete the circumnavigation in Abu Dhabi, where the journey began in March 2015.

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Bertrand Piccard of Switzerland pilots the Solar Impulse 2 aircraft as it takes off from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York early on June 20, 2016
Bertrand Piccard of Switzerland pilots the Solar Impulse 2 aircraft as it takes off on June 20, 2016

Piccard and Borschberg completed a multi-flight crossing of the United States with an earlier version of the plane in 2013.

Borschberg set an endurance record for the longest non-stop solo flight last July in a 118-hour trans-Pacific crossing from Japan to Hawaii.

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