Solar-powered aircraft within one leg of achieving flight across US

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A solar-powered aircraft bidding to fly across the US has landed at Dulles International Airport near the nation’s capital, with one leg to New York remaining.

Solar Impulse landed at 12.15am local time on Sunday after a 
flight of 14 hours and four minutes from Cincinnati, its website said.

It added that pilot Bertrand Piccard was at the controls for the last time on the multi-leg journey, before colleague Andre Borschberg flies the remaining Washington-to-New York leg in early July.

It is the first bid by a solar plane capable of being airborne day 
and night without fuel to fly across the US, at a speed of about 40mph.

The Solar Impulse began its journey on May 3 in California, flying via Arizona, Texas, Missouri and Ohio.

The plane, considered the world’s most advanced sun-powered aircraft, is powered by about 12,000 photovoltaic cells that cover its enormous wings and charge its batteries during the day.

The single-seat craft, which cannot go through clouds, took longer than a car to complete the
journey from Ohio to the East Coast.

Despite its vulnerabilities to bad weather, Mr Piccard said the conclusion of all but the final leg showed that sun-powered cross-continent travel “proves the reliability and potential of clean technologies”.

The Swiss pilots – also the aircraft’s creators – have said their ultimate goal is to fly a sun-powered aircraft around the world, with a second-generation plane now in development. Mr Borschberg said the pilots are eyeing 2015 for a worldwide attempt.