The sun-powered Solar Impulse 2 aircraft set off from New York’s JFK airport early Monday, embarking on the transatlantic leg of its record-breaking flight around the world to promote renewable energy.
The flight, piloted by Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard, is expected to take about 90 hours — during which Piccard will only take short naps — before landing at Spain’s Seville airport.
“It’s my first time taking off from JFK,” Piccard said over a live feed from the aircraft as he headed into the night sky just after 2:30 am (0630 GMT).
The plane, which is no heavier than a car but has the wingspan of a Boeing 747, is being flown on its 22,000-mile (35,000-kilometer) round-the-world journey by two pilots taking turns, Piccard and Swiss entrepreneur Andre Borschberg.
Piccard is piloting the plane on the 15th leg of its east-west journey that began March 9, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, and has taken the aircraft across Asia and the Pacific to the United States with the sun as its only source of power.
Prince Albert of Monaco, a patron of the project, gave the flight the go-ahead from its mission control center in Monaco, telling Piccard “you are released to proceed.”