Solar Impulse lands in Le Bourget on second attempt

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One of the biggest attractions of the Paris air show, the sun-powered Solar Impulse, has arrived in Le Bourget at its second attempt, after a 16h 5min flight from Brussels.

The prototype, which is powered by batteries charged by the sun, will be on display at the show, where - weather permitting - it will fly each morning from 20 June.

Piloted by Solar Impulse's co-founder and chief executive André Borschberg, the aircraft took off at 05.10 local time on 14 June, flying south over the Belgian border towards Troyes, and then north to Le Bourget after a "long circling that was due to air traffic and meteorological conditions that were anticipated by the mission team". Average speed was 22.5kt (41.6km/h) and the aircraft landed with 95% of its battery life intact.

Borschberg made an earlier attempt to get to Paris at the weekend but was forced back by the weather. Cloud cover makes it difficult for the aircraft to replenish its batteries in flight.

However, he said the flight - which follows an earlier one in May from the company's base in Switzerland to Brussels - marks a milestone for aviation.

"To stay airborne day and night without using any fuel implies making radical energy savings, and this is one way in which aviation can become less of an environmental burden," he said.

His co-founder Bertrand Piccard added: "Throughout the 20th century, aviation was the undisputed symbol of progress, innovation and the pioneering spirit - the qualities that transformed our world. And it should continue to play that role today, promoting optimism in society and a commitment to adopting solutions that will allow us to reduce our dependency on fossil energy."

The Solar Impulse aircraft, which has been seven years in development, has a 63.4m wingspan, the same as an Airbus A340, but its weight is similar to a family car. A total of 12,000 solar cells in each wing supply four 10cv electric motors, which charge the 400kg lithium polymer batteries during the day, allowing the aircraft to fly at night.

The project is supported, among others, by Solvay, Omega, Deutsche Bank and Schindler, while Dassault Aviation is "aviation consultant".