(Edited from AP, Geneva) An experimental solar-powered plane took off from western Switzerland on Wednesday for a 24-hour test flight – a key step in a historic effort to one day circle the globe using only energy collected from the sun.

The plane with its 207-foot (63-meter) wingspan left Payerne airfield shortly before 7 a.m. after overcoming an equipment problem that delayed a previous attempt, the Solar Impulse team said.

(Edited from AP, Geneva) An experimental solar-powered plane took off from western Switzerland on Wednesday for a 24-hour test flight – a key step in a historic effort to one day circle the globe using only energy collected from the sun.

The plane with its 207-foot (63-meter) wingspan left Payerne airfield shortly before 7 a.m. after overcoming an equipment problem that delayed a previous attempt, the Solar Impulse team said.

Clear blue skies on Wednesday allowed the prototype aircraft to soak up plenty of solar energy as it flew over the Jura Mountains west of the Swiss Alps. The big question, however, was whether the plane’s 12,000 solar cells could fill up its batteries with enough energy so the plane could fly through the night.

The flight is going “extremely well,” said team co-founder Bertrand Piccard, a record-breaking balloonist whose father and grandfather also accomplished pioneering airborne and submarine feats.

“The goal of the project is to have a solar-powered plane flying day and night without fuel,” Piccard said. “This flight is crucial for the credibility of the project.”

By late afternoon, pilot Andre Borschberg had his oxygen mask on and was cruising at almost 29,500 feet (9,000 meters), having earlier dodged low-level turbulence and thermal winds that are frequent in the mountains.

Piccard told The Associated Press he was confident but its energy efficiency hadn’t yet been tested under real life conditions.

Every aspect of the aircraft is monitored by engineers on the ground, with much of it fed onto the team’s website and Twitter page.

Piccard said Wednesday’s test flight – the third major step after its first ‘flea hop’ and an extended flight earlier this year – will demonstrate whether the ultimate plan is feasible: to fly the plane around the world.

The team had hoped to make their 24-hour test flight last week when days in the northern hemisphere were even longer. But there was a problem with a key piece of communications equipment, forcing the team to ground the plane while modifications were made.

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