First solar-powered round-the-world flight set for takeoff

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(CNN) — Chocks away! Solar Impulse is set to take off from Abu Dhabi on the first leg of its quest to fly around the world fueled only by the sun’s rays.

Conditions permitting, the solar-powered plane will leave the United Arab Emirates at 6:30 a.m. on Monday (02:30 GMT, 10:30 p.m. Sunday ET), bound for Muscat in Oman.

Team meteorologist Luc Trullemans said the trip had been delayed from the official start date of March 1 by the weather.

“We have had a lot of sandstorms in Abu Dhabi, and also a lot of wind, sea breezes, higher than the limit,” he said in an interview posted on Twitter and YouTube.

Trullemans said there were still some concerns about visibility because of dust blown in from the desert, but added: “We hope that tomorrow morning the dust haze will be not too strong.”

The 400-kilometer (250-mile) flight — the first leg of the marathon 35,000-kilometer round-the-world route that will include India, Myanmar, China, Hawaii and the U.S. mainland — is expected to take about 12 hours.

Monday’s journey will be relatively short, compared to some of the longer legs, which will take up to five or six days and nights.

Pilots Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard will spend a total of 500 hours behind the controls over about five months, taking it in turns in the tiny 3.8-square meter single-seater cockpit.

But Piccard admitted the pair “have butterflies in the stomach” at the thought of getting underway after working on the project for so long.

On Sunday, the pair joked about tossing a coin for the right to fly first, before tearfully revealing that they had already decided who would be doing what.

“Andre has worked on this airplane … for 12 years, from the feasibility study until now; it is more than natural that he takes the first step,” said Piccard.

Borschberg added: “Bertrand deserves to fly the last leg, and to make the arrival in Abu Dhabi, completing the vision he created 15 years ago.”

The pair will also split ocean-flying duties: Piccard will take on the five-day, five-night journey across the Pacific, while Borschberg will tackle the Atlantic.

Solar Impulse’s 72-meter (236-foot) wingspan makes it wider than a Boeing 747, but the plane weighs just 2.5 tons, lighter than a large SUV.

The tiny cockpit will be packed with essentials for the journey — enough food and water for a week — as well as a parachute, life raft and oxygen bottles in case of emergencies.

Borschberg and Piccard, who piloted an earlier version of the plane across the U.S. in 2013, are no strangers to adventure. Borschberg is a former fighter pilot, and Piccard was part of the first team to circumnavigate the earth nonstop in a balloon in 1999.

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