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Solar Plane Set to Complete Cross-Country Flight in NYC Sunday

Solar Impulse in Cincinnati, Ohio
The Solar Impulse plane is pictured on the runway shortly before taking off from Cincinnati, Ohio on June 15, 2013. (Image credit: Jean Revillard/Solar Impulse/Polaris)

A solar-powered plane will fly from Washington, D.C., to New York City tomorrow (July 6), on the fifth and final leg of its unprecedented trip across the United States.

The airplane, called Solar Impulse, is scheduled to depart Washington Dulles International Airport Saturday at 5 a.m. EDT. After roughly 21 hours in the air, the plane is expected to land at New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport Sunday (July 7) at 2 a.m. EDT.

Solar Impulse is the first plane capable of flying day and night without using any fuel. The aircraft is powered entirely by solar panels and batteries, and continuously stores energy as it flies. The ultra-lightweight plane generates about the same amount of power as a small scooter, company officials have said. [Images: Cross-Country Flight in a Solar-Powered Plane]

This weekend's flight will take Solar Impulse over the Chesapeake Bay, which surrounds Virginia and Maryland, as it travels up the Atlantic Coast. As the plane approaches the "Empire State," it will fly over the Verrazano Bridge, which connects the New York City boroughs of Staten Island and Brooklyn, and the Statue of Liberty.

Company officials said Saturday's flight has been confirmed, but flight directors will continue to monitor weather conditions and may decide to modify the route or postpone the departure if necessary.

Each leg of Solar Impulse's flight is being streamed live online, providing up-to-date information on the aircraft's position, altitude and speed. The live feed also includes views inside the airplane's cockpit, and from Solar Impulse's mission control center in Switzerland. [WATCH Live Stream of Solar Impulse Flight]

Solar Impulse's historic coast-to-coast journey began two months ago when the plane took off from Moffett Airfield near San Francisco, Calif., on May 3. Since then, the aircraft has stopped in Phoenix, Dallas, St. Louis, Cincinnati and Washington, D.C.

Swiss pilots and Solar Impulse co-founders, André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, have alternated piloting the single-seater plane on its cross-country trip. Borschberg is expected to be at the controls when the plane departs the nation's capital, company officials said.

The carbon fiber aircraft weighs about the same as a station wagon, and its solar panel-covered wings are roughly the same length as a 747 jetliner. The plane's cross-country expedition is part of an initiative called "Clean Generation," which is designed to demonstrate the potential of clean technologies.

Several events are planned to celebrate Solar Impulse's historic cross-country journey, including a Google Hangout that will be conducted live during this weekend's flight. Erik Lindbergh, the grandson of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh, is scheduled to participate in the online chat session, company officials said.

Next week, Borschberg and Piccard will participate in a NASDAQ Opening Bell Ceremony in Times Square and meet with UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon.

Follow Denise Chow on Twitter @denisechow. Follow LiveScience @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on

Denise Chow

Denise Chow was the assistant managing editor at Live Science before moving to NBC News as a science reporter, where she focuses on general science and climate change. Before joining the Live Science team in 2013, she spent two years as a staff writer for, writing about rocket launches and covering NASA's final three space shuttle missions. A Canadian transplant, Denise has a bachelor's degree from the University of Toronto, and a master's degree in journalism from New York University.