It’s been an epic journey for the Solar Impuse airplane and pilots Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard. Two months ago, Piccard departed from the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA, and after making stops in Phoenix, Dallas, St Louis, Cincinnati, and Washington, DC, the solar-powered airplane landed at New York’s JFK Airport late on Saturday night with Borschberg at the controls. The landing came earlier than expected, as a tear in one of the wings required Borschberg to land the plane about three hours ahead of schedule. The arrival in New York marks the end of a symbolic journey across the country, which will serve as preparation for an around-the-world flight that is scheduled for 2015.

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The Solar Impulse landing came on a tumultuous day for the aviation industry, as all eyes turned to San Francisco — just a few miles from where the Solar Impulse flight launched two months ago — as a plane arriving from South Korea crash landed on the runway at SFO, resulting in at least two deaths. The final leg of the Solar Impulse flight wasn’t without incident, either. During the flight, a tear was detected in the fabric on the lower side of the left wing. Helicopters took photos of the damaged wing, and it was found to be stable enough for Borschberg to complete the 18-hour flight from Washington Dulles Airport to JFK.

“This last leg was especially difficult due to the damage of the fabric on the left wing. It obliged the team to envisage all the possible scenarios, including bailing out over the Atlantic,” said Borschberg after landing in New York. “But this type of problem is inherent to every experimental endeavor. In the end, this didn’t prevent us from succeeding in our Across America mission and provided an invaluable learning experience in preparation for the round-the-world tour in 2015.”

The Solar Impulse is the first solar-powered airplane that can fly day and night, powered entirely by the sun. The flight across America was intended to raise awareness and excitement about solar technology. The flight from Washington to New York — the shortest leg of the trip — took 18 hours and 23 minutes, according to the Solar Impulse team. The entire trip from Mountain View, CA to New York took a total of 105 hours and 41 minutes.

+ Solar Impulse