A solar-powered aircraft completed the final leg of a history-making cross-country flight on Saturday night, gliding to a smooth stop at New York’s JFK airport.
The Solar Impulse completed the final leg of the journey that started in California in early May.
The flight plan for the revolutionary plane, powered by some 11,000 solar cells, had called for it to pass the Statue of Liberty before landing early Sunday at New York. But an unexpected tear discovered on the left wing of the aircraft on Saturday afternoon forced officials to scuttle the fly-by and proceed directly to JFK for a landing three hours earlier than scheduled.
Pilot Andre Borschberg trumpeted the success of the project.
“It was a huge success for renewable energy,” said Mr. Borschberg. “The only thing that failed was a piece of fabric.”
He noticed balance issues with the wing early afternoon Saturday.
Officials said the pilot and aircraft didn’t appear to be in danger. They said the eight-foot tear on the lower left side of the wing wasn’t expected to worsen through the final portion of the trip. One of the two pilots Bertrand Piccard who took turns flying the Solar Impulse said another problem with the landing was Mr. Borschberg’s lack of air breaks to avoid making turbulence in the wing with the tear.
The aircraft soars to 30,000 feet while poking along at a top speed of 45 mph (72 kph). Most of the 11,000 solar cells are on the super-long wings that seem to stretch as far as a jumbo jet’s.