Solar Impulse 2, pictured in the skies above San Francisco, USA

Solar Impulse 2 takes on Atlantic Ocean leg of round-the-world flight

Solar Impulse 2, the plane powered solely by energy from the sun, has begun its flight across the Atlantic Ocean, one of the longest journeys on its attempt to circumnavigate the globe.

The single-seat Solar Impulse 2 left John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York, USA, at approximately 2:30 am (EDT) for a flight expected to take up to 90 hours. This journey is the 15th leg of its round-the-world trip.

Swiss aviators Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg have been taking turns piloting the plane, which has more than 17,000 solar cells built into its wings, the full span of which exceeds that of a Boeing 747. Piccard is at the controls for this latest transatlantic flight.

The airplane's slow cruising speed, similar to that of a car, has required both men to take up meditation and hypnosis as part of their training, in order to be able to stay alert for long periods alone in the sky in the cramped conditions of the plane’s cabin.

Solar Impulse 2 is due to land on Thursday in either Spain or France, with the precise location to be determined later depending on local weather conditions, Elizabeth Banta, a spokeswoman for the project team, confirmed.

The carbon-fibre, propeller-driven plane has four solar-powered engines and four batteries to store surplus energy. It weighs the same as a standard family car and can ascend to a height of 28,000 feet (8,500 metres).

The team behind Solar Impulse - part of a campaign to build support for clean energy technologies - hopes to complete the global circumnavigation in Abu Dhabi, where the journey began in March 2015.

Piccard and Borschberg had previously completed a multi-flight crossing of the United States with an earlier version of the plane (Solar Impulse) in 2013.

Borschberg has subsequently set an endurance record for the longest non-stop solo flight in July 2015, with a 118-hour trans-Pacific crossing from Japan to Hawaii.

After wintering in Hawaii, Solar Impulse 2 resumed its round the world trip in April, flying from Hawaii to California. The following week, the plane was landed safely in Arizona after completing a subsequent 16-hour flight from California.

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