Solar airplane lands at Lunken Airport

The plane left St. Louis on Friday morning and landed at Lunken Airport by evening.
The plane left St. Louis on Friday morning and landed at Lunken Airport by evening.

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The world's most advanced solar airplane made a stop right here in Cincinnati on Friday evening. The Solar Impulse is attempting a tour across America without using any fuel.

It arrived around 8:15 Friday night, and it was a smooth landing. This is the only plane in the world that can fly at night and during the day without any fuel.

"There is no benchmark so it's complete exploration and adventure," explained Bertrand Piccard, Solar Impulse pilot.

Bertrand Piccard is one of two Swiss pilots who are changing the way the world looks at aviation.

You may remember him for flying around the world in a hot air balloon, but flying a plane with a wingspan of a 747 that weighs as much as a small car? Piccard says that has its own challenges that include simulated landing training.

"We were always over-correcting which means we were inducing assimilations that brought us on the roof in the grass each time," said Piccard told FOX19's Brett Hoffland.

The Solar Impulse travels at an altitude of about 10,000 feet with a cruising speed of about 30 miles per hour. It's powered entirely by solar panels and onboard batteries which allows them to fly at night.

"I tell you flying at night with an airplane that makes no noise at all is just a wonder, especially during the sunsets," said Piccard.

"To see something actually fly this distance is pretty exciting," said Eric Rood, who camped out at Lunken airport all day for the much anticipated landing of the Solar Impulse.

"It's exciting to be a part of history to see it first hand and to be out there, and witness it and be close to it," Rood explained.

Piccard and his co-founder and pilot Andre Borschberg say their initiative is called 'Clean Generation' in an effort to promote clean technologies.

"I come from a family of explorers, and there was always this combination of protection of the environment and scientific adventure," said Piccard. "After having myself make the first flight around the world in a balloon, I thought that I should do the same again but with no fuel."

Piccard says he's just thankful that he's able to fly this plane in the birthplace of aviation.

"After having flown in Switzerland, in Europe, in Africa, the highest level we can reach is to come in America."

Piccard says he'd eventually like to be able to fly this plane around the world by 2015. As for this trip, they leave for Washington D.C. on Saturday morning with a final stop of New York in July.

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