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Plane lands in UAE to complete first solar-power round-world trip

Solar Impulse 2 aircraft flies from Cairo to Abu Dhabi to complete final leg of 30,000km trip
The plane touched down at 4am in Abu Dhabi after a two-day flight from Cairo (AFP)

Solar Impulse 2 landed in the UAE early on Tuesday, completing its epic journey to become the first solar-powered plane to circle the globe.

The plane touched down at 4.05am local time in Abu Dhabi after a more than 48-hour-long flight from Cairo, the final leg in its journey which began on 9 March last year.

Cheers and clapping welcomed the plane as it arrived at al-Bateen Executive Airport, where it launched its world tour, an AFP journalist reported.

Swiss explorer and project director Bertrand Piccard was in the cockpit during the 2,763 kilometre flight from Cairo.

Due to the warmer and thinner air over Saudi Arabia, Piccard had to fly at a high altitude to avoid turbulence.

"We thought it was going to be an easy flight because it's always good weather between Egypt and Abu Dhabi across Saudi. But actually, it's extremely difficult to find a good strategy," Piccard told BBC News.

Solar Impulse flew for more than 30,000km and used only energy from the Sun. Piccard's flight began at al-Bateen Executive Airport in the UAE capital on 9 March 2015.

"My deepest admiration and respect for your courage," UN Secretary General Ban-Ki moon told Piccard in a live-streamed conversation. "This is a historic day not only for you but for humanity."

Dubbed the "paper plane," Solar Impulse 2 has been circumnavigating the globe in stages, with 58-year-old Piccard and his compatriot Andre Borschberg taking turns at the controls of the single-seat aircraft.

It took off from Cairo on the final leg early on Sunday, having previously crossed Asia, North America, Europe and North Africa.