June 2, 2014 at 6:41 am

Swiss-made solar plane makes maiden flight

German test pilot Markus Scherdel lands the new experimental aircraft 'Solar Impulse 2,' after its first flight at the airbase in Payerne, Switzerland, on June 2, 2014. (Laurent Gillieron / Getty Images)

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 236 feet.

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