(Dow Jones) The Solar Impulse aircraft, a pioneering Swiss bid to fly around the world on solar energy, successfully completed its first test flight in western Switzerland Wednesday.

"There has never been in the past an aeroplane of that kind to fly. It was a huge question mark for us and it's an extraordinary relief," said Bertrand Piccard, pioneering round-the-world balloonist who co-founded the project.

"Today for Solar Impulse it's an incredible milestone. It gives us confidence for the next flight and for the next missions," he added.

The high-tech prototype had lifted off into blue skies at a speed of just 45 kilometers per hour after running a few hundred meters down the runway at Payerne air base shortly before 10:30 a.m. (0830 GMT)

Propelled by four 10 horsepower electric motors, the single-seater aircraft and test pilot Markus Scherdel slowly gained altitude to 1,200 meters.

After 87 minutes, the plane descended gracefully back to land.

"Everything worked as it should. The flight was very successful. We were able to fly the program as planned and we are safe on the ground again," said Scherdel.

Following Wednesday's test, the 70-strong team which had worked seven years on the project is expecting to carry out other test flights to refine the prototype aircraft.

Organizers added that the team will also construct the actual plane that would undertake the world tour in five stages by 2013, and not 2012 as previously announced.

"We will continue test flights to improve the design of the second plane that would go around the world," said Andre Borschberg, a cofounder of the project, adding that construction on the aircraft would start next year.

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