Solar Impulse 2 celebrated the dawn of summer this morning by lifting off from New York’s Kennedy Airport and heading east. Today marks the beginning of the trans-Atlantic leg of the solar-powered aircraft’s round-the-world journey. Bertrand Piccard will pilot the plane for four days and four nights without using a drop of fuel before landing in Spain, the first European stop along the record-setting route. It’s no coincidence that the team chose the longest day of the year for a flight powered entirely by the sun, as the Solar Impulse mission is focused on showing off the awesome potential of clean energy. So, for today, bring on the sun.

With initiator Piccard at the controls, Solar Impulse 2 took off at 6:30am local time from New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. The pilot will endure a whopping 90 hours of continuous flight time, as the aircraft flies east to its first European destination on the round-the-world trip. Piccard and André Borschberg have taken turns piloting each leg of the journey in the experimental aircraft they developed together, which seats only one person and has a wingspan of just 236 feet. During the day, solar panels on the aircraft soak up the sun’s rays, storing the clean energy in batteries that power the airplane through the night.

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“André and the team have created more than a revolutionary airplane; they materialized my vision for the future of energy,” said Piccard prior to takeoff this morning. “Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight marked a new area in aviation and contributed to the progress of air transport on a large scale. With Solar Impulse, our aim is to encourage the deployment of clean technologies everywhere. If an airplane can fly day and night without fuel, everybody could use these same efficient solutions in their daily lives.”

Solar Impulse 2 departed Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates to begin the global adventure in March 2015. The two pilots have taken turns flying each leg of the journey, all motivated by the desire to illustrate the potential of transportation without fossil fuels. Although the Solar Impulse 2 aircraft is highly experimental and the team has encountered a number of hiccups along the way, such as overheated battery cells in Hawaii which grounded the plane for months, there have been no disastrous failures.

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So far, the solar-powered aircraft has successfully traveled 18,540 miles of its 25,000 itinerary, which the crew says proves the power of renewable energy. “With this flight over the Atlantic, we are further demonstrating Bertrand’s vision that clean technologies work and can be applied everywhere,” said Borschberg. “We can now make our world more energy efficient. It’s not a question of technology anymore, it’s only a question of mindset: Solar Impulse is like a flying smart grid, and if we can make it work in an airplane, where we can’t cheat, we can make it work on the ground, in our cities, for our homes and for all applications.”

As with other legs of the journey, Piccard’s flight is being live broadcasted over Solar Impulse’s website so you can follow along with the adventure. www.solarimpulse.com

+ Solar Impulse

Images via Solar Impulse