Solar Impulse electric plane flies into Madrid

Photo courtesy Altran Group.
The plane Solar Impulse landed in Madrid, Spain on July 7 on its return trip from Morocco.

The 17-hour flight had some turbulence and challenges for pilot Bertrand Piccard, but nothing he couldn't handle.

"After flying towards Tangier and over the Strait of Gibraltar, the solar aircraft steered in the direction of Seville," officials said in a statement. "Because of strong crosswinds over the Iberian Peninsula, the pilot found a holding area west of Seville where he waited for the right moment to continue his journey towards Toledo."

The footage from news service EFEverde shows the Solar Impulse cruise silently in for a landing. Its lights illuminate the broad but lightweight frame something akin to a UFO.

"I hope that Europe will learn from Morocco’s example," Piccard says right after the flight. He's referring to the country's investment into solar infrastructure. "It’s precisely during times of global crisis that there needs to be an investment in renewable energies and energy savings, providing us with what’s necessary to sustain employment, purchasing power and a positive trade balance.

"Thank you Morocco for giving us the good example by building the world’s largest solar power plant."

The slow-moving plane has the wingspan of an Airbus A340 and 12,000 solar cells integrated into the wings to supply four electric motors. The solar cells also charge the 400kg lithium polymer batteries so it can fly at night.

Altran Group, an engineering company involved with the project, says the Solar Impulse team faces far greater challenges when it returns to home base.  "The next major stages in the development of Solar Impulse are to cross the Atlantic then to fly around the world on-board a 2nd prototype, already under construction," Altran officials say.