Solar plane lands in Myanmar on epic round-the-world journey

YANGON (AFP) - Solar Impulse 2 landed in Myanmar's second-largest city Mandalay on Thursday after completing the fourth leg of its landmark circumnavigation of the globe powered solely by the sun - and was met by an elephant.

The single-seater aircraft landed at 7:51pm after a 13-hour journey from the Indian holy city Varanasi.

Pictures posted on social media showed the plane being met by two men dressed as a brightly coloured elephant and a huge crowd of local dancers.

Pilot Bertrand Piccard flew the fourth leg of the 12-part journey, taking over from fellow Swiss aviator Andre Borschberg.

"A moment I will remember: touch down in #Myanmar the country where I stopped my #RTW in 1998 with Breitling Orbiter 2," Piccard tweeted shortly after landing.

The leg from Varanasi was expected to take around 20 hours but strong tail winds pushed the plane up to record-breaking speeds.

"This flight broke a record in terms of speed going up to 117 knots pushed by tail winds," an update by the team on YouTube said.

The plane had stopped overnight in Varanasi after leaving Ahmedabad in Gujarat state where the plane became entangled in India's notorious bureaucracy, delaying its departure by five days.

The team behind Solar Impulse 2, which has more than 17,000 solar cells built into its wings, hopes to promote green energy with the circumnavigation attempt.

Ridiculed by the aviation industry when it was first unveiled, the venture has since been hailed around the world, including by UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

Muscat was the first of the 12 planned stops on the plane's maiden journey around the world from Abu Dhabi, with a total flight time of around 25 days spread over five months.

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