MOFFETT AIRFIELD, California (AFP) – (AFP) – The first-ever manned airplane that can fly by day or night on solar power alone landed in the dark at a major southwestern US airport, a live feed from the organizer’s website showed early Saturday.
Solar Impulse, piloted by Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard, touched down at the Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Arizona at 0730 GMT after departing from California more than 18 hours earlier on the first leg of a cross-country journey.
A ground crew met the plane as it landed and pushed it to a safe area where Solar Impulse co-founder Andre Borschberg, a Swiss engineer and ex-fighter pilot, climbed up to the cockpit on a ladder to greet Piccard, who raised his arms in triumph.
“I’m happy to be here, happy to have landed in Phoenix,” a visibly elated Piccard told reporters, as a small crowd assembled on the tarmac cheered his arrival.
Piccard said he was impressed by the scenery as he overflew the western United States, starting in San Francisco and heading south over California, then east over the Arizona desert and his nighttime approach to Phoenix. When he landed he said he still had three-quarters of his battery power left.
The US journey is being billed as the plane’s first cross-continent flight.