This Aircraft Flew 18 Hours Without Using A Drop Of Fuel

By Gopi Chandra Kharel on May 6, 2013 1:56 AM EDT

Solar Impulse
In what will be his first attempt to travel around the globe without the aid of a drop of fuel, Piccard completed a journey of 18 hours and 18 minutes in a solar-powered airplane. (Photo: Solar Impulse | J. Revillard)

Bertrand Piccard had once a vision of travelling around the world on hot air balloon. Although he succeeded to be the first person to do so, the balloon he was travelling in betrayed him in 1999 when he was stranded in an Egyptian desert after the fuel went low.

That was when another vision dawned in Piccard's mind - to create a plane in which he would not only travel around the world, but he would do so without using an ounce of fuel.

In what will be his first attempt to travel around the globe without the aid of a drop of fuel, Piccard completed a journey of 18 hours and 18 minutes in a solar-powered airplane.

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The airplane that flew using only the sun's energy took off from San Francisco just after dawn Friday and touched down early Saturday morning at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport in the first flight of what is now considered the most advance sun-powered plane that is named "Solar Impulse".

And the journey, though was of slow kind, ended having used only three-quarters of the plane's battery power, the Associated Press reported.

"It's a little bit like being in a dream," Piccard told the news outlet stepping out of the historic airplane.

Phoenix was the first of many other planned stops of what will be first attempt of flying without fuel across America. It will set its journey in coming days to Dallas, St. Lusis and Washington on the way to its final destination -- New York.

Reuters has reported that the flight crew will pause at each stop to wait for a favorable weather. It is hoped that the skinny-looking plane will ultimately land on John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York after about two months from now.

The Swiss pilot is accompanied by co-founder of the project, Andre Borschberg. They will take turns to fly the plane which is built with a single-seat cockpit. The first flight to Arizora was controlled by Piccard.

The plane that looks like a giant flying insect from far is made of light weight carbon fibre and weighs as much as a small car and has a wingspan of a jumbo jet.

Piccard approached European companies in 2003, to sponsor what has now become a $148-million project, The Wall Street Journal reported.  After 80 engineers and technicians taken mainly from Swiss universities brainstormed for over seven years, they arrived at a machine which is now flying its first journey across the U.S. only with the help of the solar power.

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