Swiss solar plane to fly through night in historic bid: crew

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The crew of a solar-powered aircraft said Wednesday they had decided to take the pioneering step of flying through the night, aiming for a landing at a Swiss airbase after dawn.

Solar Impulse chief Bertrand Piccard said the decision was taken despite strong high-altitude winds at dusk that disrupted energy planning by pushing the plane to a speed of 140 kilometres (87 miles) per hour.

"The rest of the parameters are good," said Piccard. "Which means that the team mission (control) can take the decision to go through the night," he told journalists at Payerne airbase in western Switzerland.

Solar Impulse is attempting to make the first round-the-clock flight by a purely solar-powered plane, defying the hours of darkness to keep aloft for more than 24 hours with energy from the sun stored in batteries.

The high-tech single-seater aircraft took off on the historic attempt in the early hours of Wednesday and has already spent more than 15 hours flying high above Switzerland.

© 2010 AFP

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