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Swiss-made solar plane makes successful maiden flight as it prepares for round-world trip

Solar Impulse co-founder Bertrand Piccard, left, congratulates German test pilot Markus Scherdel, right, after its maiden flight with the solar-powered Solar Impulse 2 aircraft at its base in Payerne, Switzerland Monday June 2, 2014. The aircraft is the second solar plane of the Solar Impulse project. The main goal of the project is to circumnavigate the world with an aircraft, powered only by solar energy. ((AP Photo/Denis Balibouse,Pool)

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Solar Impulse co-founder Bertrand Piccard, left, congratulates German test pilot Markus Scherdel, right, after its maiden flight with the solar-powered Solar Impulse 2 aircraft at its base in Payerne, Switzerland Monday June 2, 2014. The aircraft is the second solar plane of the Solar Impulse project. The main goal of the project is to circumnavigate the world with an aircraft, powered only by solar energy. ((AP Photo/Denis Balibouse,Pool)

BERLIN - A Swiss-made solar-powered aircraft has made a successful inaugural flight as its makers prepare for what they hope will be the first round-the-world solar flight.

The Solar Impulse 2 team said the aircraft spent 2 hours and 17 minutes in the air above western Switzerland early Monday. They plan several other flights over the coming months.

The Solar Impulse 2 is a bigger and better version of a single-seat prototype that first took flight five years ago. Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, the project's founders, say it theoretically can stay airborne indefinitely.

The plane soaks up energy from the sun through some 17,200 solar cells that cover its massive wings, which span 72 metres (236 feet).

Piccard and Borschberg hope to fly the aircraft around the world next year.

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