Bad weather forces Solar Impulse to land in Japan

2015-06-01 16:36
The Solar Impulse 2 takes off at the beginning a planned six-day, six-night non-stop flight over the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii. (Chinatopix Via AP)

The Solar Impulse 2 takes off at the beginning a planned six-day, six-night non-stop flight over the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii. (Chinatopix Via AP)

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Shanghai - Solar Impulse 2 will land in the Japanese city of Nagoya, organisers said Monday, as bad weather delayed a landmark attempt by a solar plane to cross the Pacific Ocean.

"Weather deteriorating over Pacific, decision taken for intermediate landing in Nagoya and wait for better conditions," tweeted Bertrand Piccard, the initiator of the mission.

The plane was earlier in the day in a holding pattern near Japan as organisers warned that bad weather in the days ahead could block its ambitious bid to cross the Pacific.

The seventh leg of the round-the-world journey was set to take pilot Andre Borschberg, 62, on a six-day, six-night flight from the Chinese city of Nanjing across the Pacific to Hawaii, an 8 500km flight.

The bold attempt was called off just after 15:00 Shanghai time (07:00 GMT). Organisers said the plane was expected to land in Nagoya on Monday evening.

"When we took off from China it was quite clear we could cross the front," Piccard said on a live video posted on YouTube.

"It was almost easy I would say, the weatherman was very confident.

"Now the window has closed. The front is too thick, too big. The plane would have to go through big layers of cloud.

"The only safe decision is to stop in Nagoya, wait a few days before carrying on."

Borschberg completed Solar Impulse 2's first overnight leg, with the aircraft relying solely on batteries charged by the sun's energy.

Promote green energy

The flight from Nanjing to Hawaii was scheduled to be the longest section of the maiden solar-powered global circumnavigation, an attempt to promote green energy.

The journey began in Abu Dhabi in March and was originally intended to be for 12 legs, with a total flight time of around 25 days.

Speaking on Saturday hours before the departure from Nanjing, Borschberg told reporters that the plane could land in Japan in case of technical problems, but the open ocean offers no such possibility.

"In case of emergency, we have Japan on the way, so we have identified airports where we could stop but this only really is in case of very difficult technical problems," Borschberg previously said.

"As soon as we leave this part of the world, then afterwards we are in the open sea. There is no way to come back."

Failure could mean a parachute descent into the ocean, hundreds of kilometres from rescue.

No ship is trailing the plane as it travels far too fast for a maritime vessel to keep up with, even though its maximum speed of 140km/h is much slower than conventional jet aircraft.

Solar Impulse 2 is powered by more than 17 000 solar cells built into wings that, at 72m, are longer than those of a Boeing 747 and approaching those of an Airbus A380 superjumbo.

The plane is the successor of Solar Impulse, which notched up 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
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