|By Chris Michaud1/8 |By Chris Michaud
|By Chris Michaud2/8 |By Chris Michaud
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By Chris Michaud
NEW YORK (Reuters) - An airplane powered solely by energy from the sun headed across the Atlantic early on Monday, on one of the longest legs of the first-ever flight around the globe without using a drop of fuel.
The spindly, single-seat Solar Impulse 2 left John F. Kennedy International Airport at about 2:30 a.m. EDT on a trip expected to take up to 90 hours, the 15th leg of its round-the-world journey.
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Swiss aviators Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg have been taking turns piloting the plane, which has more than 17,000 solar cells built into wings whose span exceeds that of a Boeing 747, with Piccard at the controls for the transatlantic flight.
The airplane's slow cruising speed, similar to that of a car, has required both men to take up meditation and hypnosis as part of training to stay alert for long periods.
Solar Impulse 2 is due to land sometime on Thursday in Spain or France, with the precise location to be determined later depending on weather conditions, said Elizabeth Banta, a spokeswoman for the project team.
The carbon-fiber, propeller-driven plane has four solar-powered engines and four batteries to store surplus energy. It weighs the same as a family car and can climb to 28,000 feet (8,500 m).
The team behind Solar Impulse - part of a campaign to build support for clean energy technologies - hopes to complete the circumnavigation in Abu Dhabi, where the journey began in March 2015.
Piccard and Borschberg completed a multi-flight crossing of the United States with an earlier version of the plane in 2013.
Borschberg set an endurance record for the longest non-stop solo flight last July in a 118-hour trans-Pacific crossing from Japan to Hawaii.
(Additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; editing by John Stonestreet)