The sun-powered aircraft Solar Impulse has landed in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, after a near-17-hour flight. The plane began the stage on Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio, travelling 1,044km to reach the East Coast waypoint. The journey is the 13th leg in a quest that started in Abu Dhabi last year to circumnavigate the globe on zero fuel. Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard was in the pilot’s seat of the 72m-wingspan, electric plane. The aircraft took off from Dayton International Airport at 04:02 local time (08:02 GMT). It landed in Lehigh Valley at 20:49 local time (00:49 GMT, Thursday). The achievement positions the project to make its entry into New York in the coming days. The “Big Apple” is set to be the base for Solar Impulse as it waits for a weather window to fly the Atlantic.
Deciding when to cross the ocean will be a tricky decision. The slow-moving, ultra-light plane needs benign winds, and the team concedes that the right conditions may not present themselves for several weeks. “It’s going to be a long flight – more than 26 hours. But it’s going to be extraordinary because it will be so symbolic to be at [the Statue of Liberty],” said Andre Borschberg, who will pilot the stage. “I was just visiting the Wright Brothers museum here in Dayton, and one of the flights he did – I think it was Orville – was the first airplane flight over the Statue of Liberty. He didn’t have to deal with co-ordinating the traffic because he knew there was nobody else, no other airplane flying at the time!”