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Solar plane takes flight over San Francisco Bay

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Considered the world's most advanced sun-powered plane, the Solar Impulse is a solar-powered airplane that is preparing for a journey around the world, scheduled to begin on May 1. - JEFF CHIU/AP
  • Jeff Chiu/AP
  • Considered the world's most advanced sun-powered plane, the Solar Impulse is a solar-powered airplane that is preparing for a journey around the world, scheduled to begin on May 1.

As people on the ground around the Bay Area experienced another sunny day, an all-solar-powered plane passed overhead Tuesday after taking off from Moffett Airfield in Mountain View.

The lightweight plane, which has a wingspan of 208 feet, was about 3,000 feet in the air as it flew above the Golden Gate Bridge, said Alexandra Gindroz, spokeswoman for the Swiss firm Solar Impulse, which owns the plane.

The plane, which weighs only about 3,500 pounds, runs completely  on power from the sun drawn from 12,000 solar cells on the craft that send energy into batteries that power propellers running on four electric motors, Gindroz said.

Tuesday’s flight was technically a test run to prepare for a planned cross-country trip beginning in early May. On the first leg of the trip, the plane will depart from the Bay Area and head to Phoenix, Gindroz said.

But the test run is also about something more, she said.

“For us, it’s really a message to fly over the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Area,” Gindroz said. “It means that we are here, and it’s a landmark.”