Solar plane's night flight delayed by technical problem

PAYERNE, Switzerland, July 1, 2010 (AFP) - A pioneering attempt to fly an experimental aircraft, Solar Impulse, though the night powered by nothing but the sun has been postponed due to a technical issue, organisers said Thursday.

"A failure occurred in a critical piece in the plane," Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard, the venture's founder and previously the first balloonist to circumnavigate the globe, told a press conference.

View taken on July 1, 2010 of an aircraft dubbed Solar Impulse, HB-SIA prototype in a warehouse in Payerne. AFP
View taken on July 1, 2010 of an aircraft dubbed Solar Impulse, HB-SIA prototype in a warehouse in Payerne. AFP

His spokesman told AFP that he was referring to an item of navigational equipment which broke down on Wednesday night.

The ultra-light aircraft, flown by joint founder Andre Borschberg, had been set to take off from the Payerne airbase in Switzerland early Thursday and then fly for 24 hours through the day and the night.

The single seater clad with solar panels, which weighs little more than a saloon car but bears the wingspan of an Airbus A340 airliner, has completed 10 test flights since it first hopped along a runway seven months ago.

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