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Solar plane lands in Spain following turbulence over Atlantic

The experimental plane is flying over the Atlantic at the hands of Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard and is due to land in Spain early Thursday

Published: Updated:

Swiss officials say an experimental solar-powered airplane has completed a three-day flight across the Atlantic in the latest leg of its globe-circling voyage.

The Aero-Club of Switzerland said the Solar Impulse 2 landed in Seville in southern Spain at 0540 GMT on Thursday, ending a 70-hour flight which began from New York City on Monday.

It was the 15th leg of a planned around-the-world flight which began in March 2015 from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

The Solar Impulse 2’s wings, which stretch wider than those of a Boeing 747, are equipped with 17,000 solar cells that power propellers and charge batteries. The plane runs on stored energy at night.

The Aero-Club of Switzerland is responsible for validating records of the flight.

The Solar Impulse 2 plane went through “a long night of turbulence” over the Atlantic, its weary pilot said Wednesday as he continued on the challenging leg of its sun-powered trip around the world.

The experimental plane, is flying over the Atlantic at the hands of Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard and is due to land in Spain‘s southern Seville airport early Thursday.

By around 1100 GMT on Wednesday, the aircraft -- which is powered in the night sky by energy supplied by its 17,000 photovoltaic cells -- had completed three-quarters of its 6,000-kilometre (3,700-mile) flight across the Atlantic.

“After a long night of turbulence and little sleep, I see the first light of the day,” Piccard tweeted earlier on Wednesday.

“Awake and enjoying the Atlantic even after 51 hours of flight. Exploration is always exhilarating,” he tweeted later, with a photo of a cloudy sky.

The voyage marks the first solo transatlantic crossing in a solar-powered airplane, and Piccard has been getting little sleep as he survives on short catnaps.

During his crossing, he has seen whales cavorting in the waters beneath the plane, a gorgeous full moon in the nighttime sky, and more.

“You will not believe me, but to my right, I see an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean. Check it out!” he tweeted a day ago.

No heavier than a car but with the wingspan of a Boeing 747, Solar Impulse is being flown on its 35,400-kilometer trip round the world in stages, with Piccard and his Swiss compatriot Andre Borschberg taking turns at the controls of the single-seat plane.

Borschberg piloted a 6,437-kilometer flight between Japan and Hawaii that lasted 118 hours, smashing the previous record for the longest uninterrupted journey in aviation history.

The plane has flown across Asia and the Pacific to the United States with the sun as its only source of power.

The plane typically travels at a mere 48 kilometers per hour, although its flight speed can double when exposed to full sunlight.