Solar-powered plane makes local stop in Lehigh Valley

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (WPVI) -- Solar Impulse 2 ended its 17-hour trip from Dayton, Ohio, at the Lehigh Valley International Airport.

The solar-powered airplane touched down Wednesday night in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

"It's as big as a 747 I think. The wing span," said Steve O'Brian of Lehigh Valley.

"They originated in Abu Dhabi, and they've come all the way around here," said Margaret Kelly of Philadelphia. "It's absolutely amazing."

"It's never boring, never boring. First it was turbulent, so half of time I had to fly manual so you are really busy," said pilot Bertand Piccard. "And the landscape is beautiful."

The single-seat plane is steered by two separate pilots who switch out each leg of the journey.

Some trips last longer than others, which is where the 17,000 cells on the wings help the pilot stay in the air well into the night.

"We do rest. When I flew five days, five nights over the Pacific I did a resting period of 20 minutes," said pilot Andre Borscheberg. "Not many, about six every 24 hours. I also do quite a bit of yoga meditation."

"I love airplanes so this was a chance to get him excited about something that is history in the making," said Brian Salomen.

"It has long wings," said Fox, Salomen's 4-year-old son.

"It's necessarily light weight and fragile and it's not falling apart, which tells you it's very well designed," said John Schubert of Coopersburg, Pennsylvania.

Earlier in the day, anticipation was building at the airport.

"Its something that's a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience," said Lehigh-Northampton Authority Executive Director Charles Everett.

The Solar Impulse 2 is well on its way to becoming the first airplane to ever circumnavigate the Earth using the sun as it's only source of energy.

The plane's unusual design is built around its massive wings, which serve as solar panels.

"It has a wingspan of 238 feet, and that's about 2 feet larger than a wingspan of a 747-800 so it's a very large aircraft, very well lit," said Everett. "It's something you don't see everyday."

The solar-powered plane will be staying at the airport for a few days before taking off on the next leg of its historic journey.

Officials who are part of the mission showed up days in advance to build a massive, temporary hangar, complete with air-conditioning.

Folks from the airport say the plane's mission is not only a technological marvel, it's also a glimpse into the future of commercial flight.

"They're trying to promote the solar power, solar energy, and maybe some point in the future aircraft may be powered by the sun," said Everett.

Next up? Solar Impulse 2 heads to JFK Airport in New York.

The round-the-world trip will end in Abu Dhabi later this year.

For more information on the Solar Impulse 2 and its journey visit
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