Solar Impulse to go under cover in Japan

2015-06-02 17:14
The Solar Impulse 2 touches down Nagoya Airport in Toyoyama, near Nagoya, central Japan. (Kyodo News via AP)

The Solar Impulse 2 touches down Nagoya Airport in Toyoyama, near Nagoya, central Japan. (Kyodo News via AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Nagoya - Sunshine powered Solar Impulse 2 was expected to get under cover overnight on Tuesday, finally allowing support staff to let go of the super lightweight plane almost 24 hours after it arrived in Japan.

Crew members had spent the day holding onto the high-tech flying machine to prevent it being picked up by the wind as it sat on the tarmac in the central city of Nagoya.

Managers of the team trying to circumnavigate the globe by solar power said they were expecting a mobile hangar to be erected overnight, protecting the plane's delicate technology and 72m wings from the elements.

"Our team of a dozen people has been holding the plane on the ground" since it arrived late Monday night, mission initiator Bertrand Piccard told AFP.

"The plane has a huge surface area and is very light, with a take off speed of just 45km/hr, so with gusts of wind like today you really need to hold on to it."

Piccard said the end was in sight for crew members who had spent hours clinging to the aircraft.

"The hangar is on its way and should be inflated during the night, so the plane should be protected tomorrow. When that's done we'll all be able to breathe a bit more easily."

Japan was not originally part of the round-the-world itinerary for the Solar Impulse team, who had been hoping to get all the way to Hawaii from Nanjing in China.

The seventh leg of their epic mission, aimed at raising awareness of the possibilities of green energy, was intended to be 8 500km, and to take six days and six nights of non-stop flight, with rechargeable batteries taking the strain during the hours of darkness.

But a developing cold weather front in the Pacific forced mission controllers to order pilot Andre Borschberg to divert to Nagoya.

Now, with the support team arriving from China, all eyes were on the skies and when they would get their next chance to attempt the vast distance across the Pacific to Hawaii.

"We want to carry on as soon as possible, and leave Nagoya before the rainy season," said Piccard.

"But we need a clear meteorological window. The plane can only fly in nice weather, except when it flies at high altitude, above the clouds."

Alien invasion

Curious locals gathered in a park near the airport Tuesday, hoping to get a glimpse of the plane, which has 17 000 solar cells and weighs just 2 300kg.

LEDs that festoon the huge wingspan gave the plane an ethereal look as it glided in to land on Monday night - even sparking rumours of an extra-terrestrial invasion.

"People were tweeting that a UFO was coming," Shigeru Akoshima, 56, told AFP, while 67-year-old Mieko Murayama said she had been baffled by the lights.

"My husband even called the police," she said.

The landing was live streamed on the project's website, with viewers treated to scenes of jubilation and relief from the Monaco mission control room as the plane touched down.

Despite having been cut short by several days, the flight from China notched up at least one first - Solar Impulse 2 managed to fly day and night powered only by sunshine for the first time.

25 days

The round-the-world attempt began in Abu Dhabi in March and was originally intended to be completed in 12 legs, with a total flight time of around 25 days.

It was not supposed to include a stop in Japan, but, as the last bit of land before the vast stretch of the open Pacific, it had always been a possible backup destination.

The mission's well-oiled PR operation wasted no time after the unexpected landing, posting messages on their Twitter feed in Japanese thanking the nation for its support.

The plane is the successor to Solar Impulse, which managed a 26-hour flight in 2010, proving its ability to store enough power in lithium batteries during the day to keep flying at night.

Ridiculed by the aviation industry when it was first unveiled, the venture has since been hailed around the world, including by UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

Read more on:    solar impulse  |  japan  |  solar  |  aviation

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.