Solar Impulse 2, the plane that is intended to fly around the world powered only by sun, has landed safely in Oman on its first leg. The solar-powered plane took off from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates with pilot Andre Borschberg at the controls for the 400-kilometer (250 mile) flight. The journey was expected to take about 12 hours, but high winds of up to 11 knots delayed its landing, forcing Borschberg to fly in a holding pattern above Muscat until they dropped to safe levels. Thus, once safely on the ground, Borschberg said he was "extremely happy" and "looking forward to the rest of the adventure."
Solar Impulse 2's visit to Oman is a short pit-stop on its marathon 35,000-kilometer, five month journey across the globe, via India, Myanmar, China and the U.S. The plane is expected to be on the ground for just eight hours before it takes off again -- this time with pilot Bertrand Piccard in charge -- bound for Ahmedabad in India. The potentially historic flight had originally been due to take off on March 1 but its departure was postponed because of concerns about the weather after strong dust storms created hazy conditions.
By March 2 morning, the skies had cleared sufficiently for takeoff, though there was a slight delay while technical checks were carried out. Eventually the plane got off the ground, under the watchful eye of fellow pilot Piccard.
Borschberg and Piccard will spend a total of 500 hours behind the controls over the entire trip, taking it in turns in the tiny 3.8-square meter single-seater cockpit. The pair will also split ocean-flying duties: Piccard will take on the five-day, five-night journey across the Pacific, while Borschberg will tackle the Atlantic.
Solar Impulse's 72-meter (236-foot) wingspan makes it wider than a Boeing 747, but the plane weighs just 2.5 tons, lighter than a large SUV. The tiny cockpit will be packed with essentials for the journey -- enough food and water for a week -- as well as a parachute, life raft and oxygen bottles in case of emergencies.
Borschberg and Piccard, who piloted an earlier version of the plane across the U.S. in 2013, are no strangers to adventure. Borschberg is a former fighter pilot, and Piccard was part of the first team to circumnavigate the earth nonstop in a balloon in 1999.