Next stop for solar airplane? Ohio

Posted at 11:04 PM, May 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-20 23:04:37-04

DAYTON, Ohio -- A solar-powered airplane's next stop in its round-the-world voyage will be in Ohio.

The crew of the Swiss-made Solar Impulse 2 announced Friday they'd depart Tulsa International Airport and head for Dayton early Saturday morning. The trip is expected to take about 18 hours, with the plane's maximum speed of about 50 mph.

With that schedule, the single-pilot aircraft should land at Dayton International Airport at about 11 p.m. Saturday, the Dayton Daily News reported.

Solar Impulse 2 departed from northern California in the early hours of May 2 and landed at the airport southwest of Phoenix 16 hours later. Last month, it flew from Hawaii to California.

The globe-circling voyage began in March 2015 from Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, and made stops in Oman, Myanmar, China and Japan.

After leaving Dayton early Tuesday, the plane eventually will cross the Atlantic Ocean to Europe or northern Africa, according to the website documenting the journey.

The Solar Impulse 2's wings, which stretch wider than those of a Boeing 747, are equipped with 17,000 solar cells that power propellers and charge batteries. The plane runs on stored energy at night.

Ideal flight speed is about 28 mph, although that can double during the day when the sun's rays are strongest.

The plane had a five-day trip from Japan to Hawaii and three-day trip from Hawaii to California's Silicon Valley.

The crew was forced to stay in Oahu, Hawaii, for nine months after the plane's battery system sustained heat damage on its trip from Japan.

Project officials say the layovers give the two Swiss pilots -- Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg -- a chance to swap places and engage with local communities along the way so they can explain the project, which is estimated to cost more than $100 million.

The solar project began in 2002 to highlight the importance of renewable energy and the spirit of innovation.