The world's first manned plane powered by conventional dry-cell batteries soared five metres above the ground in a demonstration flight here on Sunday.
The glider-like plane with a single-seat gondola and a 31 metre wingspan was powered by 160 AA 'Oxyride' batteries which have been produced by Japan's Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. since April 2004.
It soared as high as 5.2 metres, stayed in the air for 59 seconds and covered a distance of 391 metres at a private airport owned by Honda Motor Co. "I was careful at take-off as it was very difficult," said Tomohiro Kamiya, a senior member at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, who piloted the plane.
"As it soared five metres, people on the ground looked so small to me," he added. "I did not expect it to take off so beautifully. I realised again how poweful it could be." Kamiya weighs 53 kilograms, almost as much as the plane itself.
The institute, known for its experiments with human-powered planes, and the giant electronics firm, launched a joint project to develop the battery-powered plane, said Matsushita spokesman Kazuhiko Zushi.
In April, the joint team completed the plane and suceeded in rolling and taxiing the aircraft in its first test flight.