Solar plane touches down in Mandalay

The first round-the-world solar powered flight landed in Mandalay, Burma, on Thursday night on the fourth flight of its five-month journey of 35,000 kilometres.

The Solar Impulse 2 arrived in at 8pm local time, after leaving the Indian city of Varanasi earlier in the day.

Crowds gathered on the tarmac to welcome the futuristic aircraft to Burma.

The plane is only as heavy a family car (2,300 kg, 5,100 pounds) and but has a wingspan as wide as the largest passenger airliner.

Its journey will span approximately 25 flight days broken up into 12 legs at speeds between 50 and 100 km per hour.

“We can save energy with new technologies. We can make clean development, and this is not only for the environment, it’s also to create jobs, to make profit, to have better quality of life,” said Bertrand Piccard, one of the pilots, shortly after touching down.

Bertrand Piccard and fellow pilot Andre Borschberg will take turns at the controls of Solar Impulse 2, which began its journey in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates on 9 March, as it makes its way around the globe.

Borschberg said he hopes the project will inspire the younger generation.

“This project is for everybody and certainly for the young generation. We were inspired when we were young kids, small boys, so if this airplane and this project can inspire also other young people. That will be really fantastic,” he said.

The plane will stop in Burma for a few day before heading to China and crossing the Pacific Ocean to the United States and Southern Europe to arrive back in Abu Dhabi by late July.

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Studies, design and construction took 12 years and a first version of the craft rolled out in 2009 broke records for heights and distances travelled by a manned solar plane.

Burma’s Ministry of Electric Power is now reviewing plans for a series of major coal-fired power plants. But with President Thein Sein and Army Chief Min Aung Hlaing in Mandalay to greet the Solar Impulse 2, her Swiss pilots will hope that Burma can emerge as a forerunner for green power in the developing world.

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