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Pilots set to attempt first ever around-the-world flight in solar-powered plane

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The first attempt to fly around the world in a plane using solar energy will be launched Monday in Abu Dhabi, its pilots said, in a landmark journey aimed at promoting green energy.

The takeoff of Solar Impulse 2, which was delayed on Saturday due to high winds, would cap 13 years of research and testing by Swiss pilots Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard.

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“This project is a human project, it is a human challenge,” Borschberg, co-founder and chief executive of Solar Impulse who will fly the plane on the first leg, told reporters on Sunday.

The wingspan of the one-seater plane, known as the Si2, is slightly bigger than that of a jumbo jet, but its weight is around that of a family car.

It will take off from Abu Dhabi on Monday at 6:30 am (0230 GMT), landing first in Muscat, Oman.

From there, it will make 12 stops on an epic journey spread over five months, with a total flight time of around 25 days.

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It will cross the Arabian Sea to India before heading on to Myanmar, China, Hawaii and New York.

Landings are also earmarked for the midwestern United States and either southern Europe or North Africa, depending on weather conditions.

The longest single leg will see a lone pilot fly non-stop for five days across the Pacific Ocean between Nanjing, China and Hawaii, a distance of 8,500 kilometres (5,270 miles).

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Borschberg and Piccard will alternate turns at the controls because the plane can hold only one person.

All this will happen without burning a drop of fuel.

“We want to share our vision of a clean future,” said Piccard, chairman of Solar Impulse.

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“Climate change is a fantastic opportunity to bring in the market new green technologies that save energy, save natural resources of our planet, make profit, create jobs, and sustain growth.”

The pilots’ idea was ridiculed by the aviation industry when it was first unveiled.

But Piccard, who hails from a family of scientist-adventurers and was the first person, in 1999, to circumnavigate the globe in a hot air balloon, clung to his belief that clean technology and renewable energy “can achieve the impossible”.

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The plane is powered by more than 17,000 solar cells built into wings that, at 72 metres (236 feet), are longer than a jumbo and approaching that of an Airbus A380 superjumbo.

– Clean energy petition –

Thanks to an innovative design, the lightweight carbon fibre aircraft weighs only 2.3 tonnes, about the same as a family 4X4 and less than one percent of the weight of the A380.

The Si2 is the first solar-powered aircraft able to stay aloft for several days and nights.

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The propellor craft has four 17.5 horsepower electric motors with rechargeable lithium batteries.

It will travel at 50-100 kilometres per hour, with the slower speeds at night to prevent the batteries from draining too quickly.

The Si2 is the successor to Solar Impulse, a smaller craft that notched up a 26-hour flight in 2010, proving its ability to store enough power in the batteries during the day to keep flying at night

It made its last successful test flight in the United Arab Emirates on March 2, and mission chiefs reported no problems.

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It is scheduled to arrive back in Abu Dhabi in July, flown by Piccard.

For him, “the project should not finish in July, it should start in July.” A petition was launched on futureisclean.org to campaign in favour of clean energy.

The pilots will be linked to a control centre in Monaco where 65 weathermen, air traffic controllers and engineers will be stationed. A team of 65 support staff will travel with the two pilots.

Its progress can be monitored via live video streaming at .


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
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Ex-prosecutor demands congressional investigation after latest report on the FBI and Brett Kavanaugh

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Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh had another allegation of sexual misconduct revealed on Saturday in a bombshell report in The New York Times.

"A classmate, Max Stier, saw Mr. Kavanaugh with his pants down at a different drunken dorm party, where friends pushed his penis into the hand of a female student. Mr. Stier, who runs a nonprofit organization in Washington, notified senators and the F.B.I. about this account, but the F.B.I. did not investigate and Mr. Stier has declined to discuss it publicly," the newspaper reported.

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Boris Johnson promises Britain will be like the Incredible Hulk during Brexit negotiations

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Saturday he was making a "huge amount of progress" towards a Brexit deal with the EU, in an interview in which he compared Britain to the Incredible Hulk.

"It's going to take a lot of work between now and October 17" when EU leaders gather for their final summit before Britain's scheduled exit from the bloc, he told the Mail on Sunday newspaper.

"But I'm going to go to that summit and I'm going to get a deal, I'm very confident. And if we don't get a deal then we'll come out on October 31."

His comments came ahead of talks with European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker and the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, in Luxembourg on Monday.

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NYT blasted for ‘spectacularly offensive sentiment’ after tweet illustrating ‘rape culture’

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The results of a 10-month investigation into Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh by New York Times reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly was published on Saturday.

But attention was taken away from the powerful reporting after the Twitter account of The Times opinion page posted a shocking message.

"Having a penis thrust in your face at a drunken dorm party may seem like harmless fun," read the tweet.

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