Discuss as:

Solar plane takes off for its first transcontinental flight

Fabrice Coffrini / AFP - Getty Images

The Swiss sun-powered aircraft Solar Impulse takes off on May 24, in Payerne on its first attempted intercontinental flight from Switzerland to Morocco. Solar Impulse, piloted by Andre Borschberg, is expected to land in Madrid for a stopover before heading to Morocco without using a drop of fuel. Bertrand Piccard will pilot the second leg on to Rabat, scheduled to leave Madrid on May 28 at the earliest.

Fabrice Coffrini / AFP - Getty Images

The president of the Swiss sun-powered aircraft Solar Impulse project, Bertrand Piccard, helps pilot Andre Borschberg prepare for takeoff on May 24, in Payerne on its first attempted intercontinental flight from Switzerland to Morocco.

AP reports -- An experimental solar-powered airplane took off from Switzerland on its first transcontinental flight Thursday, aiming to reach North Africa next week.

Pilot Andre Borschberg planned to take the jumbo jet-size Solar Impulse plane on its first leg to Madrid, Spain, by Friday. His colleague Bertrand Piccard will take the helm of the aircraft for the second stretch of its 1,554-mile journey to the Moroccan capital Rabat.

Fog on the runway at its home base in Payerne, Switzerland, delayed the take off by two hours, demonstrating how susceptible the prototype single-seater aircraft is to adverse weather.

"We can't fly into clouds because it was not designed for that," Borschberg said as he piloted the lumbering plane with its 207-foot wingspan toward the eastern French city of Lyon at a cruising speed of just 43.5 miles an hour.

Before landing in Madrid in the early hours of Friday, Borschberg will face other challenges, including having to overfly the Pyrenees, the mountains that separate France and Spain.

Just in case things go disastrously wrong, Borschberg has a parachute inside his tiny cabin that he hopes never to use. "When you take an umbrella it never rains," he joked in a satellite call with The Associated Press.

Continue reading.

Fabrice Coffrini / AFP - Getty Images

The Swiss sun-powered aircraft Solar Impulse prepares for takeoff on May 24, in Payerne on its first attempted intercontinental flight from Switzerland to Morocco.

The Solar Impulse will fly from Switzerland to Morocco as the pilot and crew prepare for a trip around the world in 2014. Msnbc.com's Dara Brown reports.