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May 24, 2016

Solar Impulse 2 lands at Lehigh Valley International Airport

Swiss pilots take round-the-world journey to prove potential of clean energy aviation

A solar-powered plane on a journey around the world landed at Lehigh Valley International Airport Wednesday night as Swiss pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg attempt to display the potential of clean aviation technology in the decades to come.

The Solar Impulse 2 took off last March in Abu Dhabi and just completed the 13th leg of its trip from Dayton, Ohio. It's no small feat: the plane travels at an average speed of just 28 mph. 

Decked out with 17,000 solar panels, Solar Impulse 2 was supposed to land at Lehigh Valley International Airport late Tuesday but was held up because of safety concerns and a decision to check for possible damage to the aircraft after fans that keep the mobile hangar inflated had a power failure.

An all-clear was given Tuesday afternoon and the plane, weighing in at just more than 5,100 pounds, departed from Dayton at 4 a.m. Wednesday on a 17-hour flight — about 520 miles — to LVIA in Allentown, landing at around 9 p.m.

According to the Morning Call, the airport made special accommodations for the aircraft, whose 236-foot wingspan is wider than a typical 747 jetliner's 196-foot width. Airport crews are accustomed to planes zooming down onto runways at blazing speeds, but Solar Impulse 2 was manually guided to a stop on the tarmac. 

Piccard, a psychiatrist and balloonist who became the first person to complete a non-stop hot air venture around the world, believes Solar Impulse 2 will demonstrates our capacity to drastically cut down on fossil fuels for long-distance travel. 

"If an airplane can fly day and night without fuel, everybody could use these same technologies on the ground to halve our world's energy consumption, save natural resources and improve our quality of life," Piccard said in a news release. "Our hope is to motivate everyone to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels in their daily lives and encourage concrete actions for sustainability."

Solar Impulse 2 will travel next to New York's JFK Airport before heading back across the Atlantic. You can learn more about the plane in the video in the video below.