Solar Impulse 2 has taken off from California on the tenth leg of its record-breaking solar-powered journey around the world.
The plane took off from Moffett Airfield at 8:03 a.m. ET Monday, starting its trek across the U.S. Piloted by Andre Borschberg, Solar Impulse 2 is expected to arrive at Phoenix Goodyear Airport around 12:00 a.m. ET Tuesday after a 16-hour, 720-mile flight.
After Phoenix, the aircraft will make two stops in the Midwest before flying to New York. The Solar Impulse team wants to reach New York as soon as possible, according to a statement released on Monday. However, the plane’s Midwestern stops have not yet been confirmed. “The team is examining a wide range of potential destinations in the mainland to leave a maximum flexibility for route planning,” explained Solar Impulse, in its statement.
From New York, the plane will fly across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe. The final leg of the odyssey is from Europe to Abu Dhabi, where Solar Impulse 2 began its circumnavigation last year.
The plane is the brainchild of explorer and Solar Impulse Chairman Piccard, who is taking it in turns with his fellow Swiss pilot Borschberg to fly the aircraft on its journey across the globe. Piccard piloted the plane on the last leg of its journey – a risky, three-day flight across the Pacific Ocean from Hawaii.
Solar Impulse 2, a larger version of a single-seat prototype that first flew six years ago, is made of carbon fiber and has 17,248 solar cells built into the wing that supply the plane with renewable energy, via four motors. The solar cells recharge four lithium polymer batteries, which provide power for night flying.
The aircraft typically flies between 30 mph and 40 mph, although this can increase and decrease significantly depending on wind speed.
Borschberg piloted Solar Impulse 2 on the eighth leg of its journey, landing in Hawaii on July 3 2015 after an incredible 4,480-mile, five -day flight from Japan. The 118-hour journey shattered the record for longest solar-powered flight in terms of distance and duration, easily surpassing the 1,491-mile, 44-hour record Borschberg set when flying from China to Japan on the prior leg of the trip. Borschberg also broke the record for longest non-stop solo flight without refueling, which previously stood at 76 hours and 45 minutes.
The aircraft then had a nine-month layover in Hawaii while the Solar Impulse team fixed damage that occurred during the flight from Japan.
A huge inflatable mobile hangar that can be quickly assembled and disassembled is being used to shelter Solar Impulse 2 on its journey around the world.
During the last leg of the trip Piccard told FoxNews.com that the plane’s journey is a massive logistical undertaking. “It’s tremendous work,” he said. “When you see the plane flying silently with no pollution, you think it’s magic, but there are 150 people on the team.”
The incredible solar-powered trek began in March 2015 when the plane flew from Abu Dhabi to Oman. Solar Impulse 2 then flew to India, Myanmar and Nanjing, China, en route to an unscheduled stop in Nagoya, Japan. The plane originally left Nanjing for Hawaii, but diverted to Japan because of unfavorable weather.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.