A solar-powered aircraft completed the final leg of a history-making cross-country flight Saturday night, gliding to a smooth stop at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.All was not smooth flying, as it turned out that when I posted Solar Impulse flying to New York City, the plane had already landed. NBC News reports why in Solar Impulse plane ends American odyssey with fears, tears and cheers.
The Swiss-built Solar Impulse airplane ended its two-month-long, solar-powered trip across America with a nail-biter of a flight from Washington to New York on Saturday.After landing in NYC, this plane is now retired and apparently not a moment too soon. Piccard and company may be done with this particular prototype, but they are not done with solar powered flight. They plan a more ambitious round-the-world flight in 2015
"Maybe if I didn't have 10 cameras pointed at me, I would cry," Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard, one of the pilots for the coast-to-coast journey, said just before the 11:09 p.m. ET landing at New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport.
The extra drama came from the discovery in the trip's final hours that the ultra-light airplane had suffered an 8-foot-long (2.5-meter-long) tear in the fabric on the lower side of the left wing. Andre Borschberg, who was filling the pilot's seat for the Washington-to-New York segment of the "Across America" journey, noticed a balance issue with the wings on Saturday afternoon — and pictures taken by a helicopter flying nearby confirmed the damage.
Neither Borschberg nor the plane were thought to be in danger; nevertheless, the Solar Impulse team did everything it could to reduce the risk. That meant considering all the options for ending the flight, including the possibility of bailing out over the Atlantic. It meant passing up a Statue of Liberty photo op and working out a deal with air traffic controllers to land the plane three hours earlier than originally planned. And it meant changing the landing procedure.