Solar-powered airplane lands in New York City

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Saturday, June 11, 2016
Solar-powered airplane lands in New York City
SI2, solar-powered airplane Solar Impulse 2, piloted by Swiss adventurer Andre Borschberg, flies over Manhattan in New York Saturday, June 11, 2016.
Jean Revillard-AP

NEW YORK -- The solar-powered airplane on a globe-circling voyage that began more than a year ago in the United Arab Emirates reached a milestone Saturday, completing a trip across the United States with a Statue of Liberty fly-by before landing in New York.

The Swiss-made Solar Impulse 2 landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport at 4 a.m. after a 4 hour 41 minute flight of about 165 miles from Lehigh Valley International Airport in Pennsylvania. Its trip across the U.S. mainland began April 24, when Solar Impulse landed in San Francisco from Hawaii.

"Si2 is now safe in New York, JFK airport ... Our new home is Hangar 19 in John F. Kennedy International Airport!" the pilots' logbook read.

Pilots Andre Borschberg, who flew the plane to New York, and Bertrand Piccard, who will start the next leg of the journey, expect to leave "soon" to cross the Atlantic Ocean for Europe or South Africa on their way to completing an aviation engineering feat to advance environmentally compatible technology.

Across the U.S., they stopped in Phoenix; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Dayton, Ohio, home of aviation pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright; and Allentown, Pennsylvania.

The Solar Impulse 2's wings, which stretch wider than those of a Boeing 747, are equipped with 17,000 solar cells that power propellers and charge batteries. The plane runs on stored energy at night. Ideal flight speed is about 28 mph, although that can double during the day when the sun's rays are strongest.

The plane originally was scheduled to head to the Big Apple Monday night but showers and thunderstorms moving through the area caused it to be grounded.

The trip began in March 2015 from Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, and made stops in Oman, Myanmar, China and Japan. The plane had a five-day trip from Japan to Hawaii, where the crew was forced to stay in Oahu for nine months after the plane's battery system sustained heat damage on its trip from Japan.