photo by Stephanie Booth (Flickr CC)

In preparation for its first round-the-world flight, the sun-powered Solar Impulse aircraft has completed the first leg of its flight across the Mediterranean by landing safely in Madrid this morning.

The experimental solar airplane was making the first leg of its journey from Payerne, Switzerland to Rabat, Morocco.

Though the plane has a wingspan comparable to a large jet, it only weighs as much as a mid-sized car.


Lone pilot Andre Borschberg is quoted by AFP:

The flight went very well and thanks to the team of meteorologists, everything went according to the plan: it was extraordinary. It was incredible to fly alongside the barrier of clouds during most of the flight and not need to hesitate to fly above them. This confirms our confidence in the capacity of solar energy even further.

The Solar Impulse holds the record by far for the longest solar-powered flight at over 26 hours. Its team plans a round-the-world flight for 2014, but using a new aircraft. That should take a while, as at present the solar plane has a cruising speed of 43.5mph (70kmph).

Read more on the story in the Guardian and check out the below video report from ITN News.