Sun-Powered Plane Solar Impulse Begins Next Leg of Global Flight, Takes Off for Tulsa

The Solar Impulse is powered by solar cells on its wings absorbing sunlight.

— -- The sun-powered plane Solar Impulse 2 departed Phoenix, Arizona, for Tulsa, Oklahoma, this morning as it glides towards its goal of circumnavigating the globe.

Solar Impulse 2 took off from Goodyear Airport at 3:05 a.m. MT with pilot and Chairman of Solar Impulse, Bertrand Piccard, at the controls.

The plane weighs over 5,000 pounds -- about the heft of a truck. The aircraft uses its more than 17,000 solar cells built into the wings to power the engines without any fuel.

This allows Solar Impulse 2 to save energy during times of direct sunlight and continue through the night on batteries charged by the solar cells.

The aircraft is expected to land in Tulsa tonight at 11 p.m. CT.

Solar Impulse was grounded in Hawaii after the plane's battery system sustained damage during the Japan-to-Hawaii leg of the trip. After at least two planned stops in the United States, Solar Impulse will fly from New York to Europe, according to the project's website. The final leg, which will be from either Europe or Northern Africa to Abu Dhabi, is expected to take 120 hours and be completed this summer.

Pilots Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard began the pioneering project with the goal of highlighting clean energy.

"Maybe it will be boring in 20 years when all the airplanes will be electric and people will say, 'Oh, it's routine.' But now, today, an airplane that is electric, with electric engines, that produces its own energy with the sun, it can never be boring," Piccard told the Associated Press.