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Solar plane begins 1st transcontinental flight

GENEVA (AP) – An experimental solar-powered airplane has taken off from Switzerland on its first transcontinental flight.

Swiss Andre Borschberg is piloting the jumbo jet-size Solar Impulse plane non-stop from Payerne, Switzerland, to Madrid, Spain.

His colleague Bertrand Piccard will take the helm of the one-seater aircraft for the second leg to the Moroccan capital Rabat next week.

On their 2,500-kilometer (1,554-mile) journey the pilots will have to overfly the Pyrenees mountains at night and cross the windy Straits of Gibraltar from Europe to Africa.

The mission is described as the final dress rehearsal for the team’s round-the-world flight in 2014.

The project began in 2003 and is estimated to cost about $100 million over 10 years.

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