7 Jun 2012

Solar plane flies from Spain to Morocco

5:16 am on 7 June 2012

A solar plane has landed in Morocco, completing the first intercontinental flight, powered by the sun.

The Solar Impulse took off from Madrid and flew across the Strait of Gibraltar to land at Rabat's international airport at 11:30pm on Wednesday after a flight lasting 19 hours.

Swiss pilot Bertrand Piccard, 54, was welcomed by officials of the Moroccan Solar Energy Agency.

He took off from Barajas airport at 5:22am.

At one point, Piccard had to climb to more than 5500 metres, where he needed an oxygen mask to breathe.

The carbon-fibre aircraft did not use a drop of fuel. Each of the motors charges 400kg lithium polymer batteries during the day, allowing the aircraft to carry on flying after dark.

The 2500km voyage is also intended as a rehearsal for a flight around the world planned for 2014.

Solar Impulse made history in July 2010 for staying aloft for 26 hours, 10 minutes and 19 seconds above Switzerland,