Science

Solar Impulse 2 makes unscheduled stop in round-the-world attempt

A solar plane attempting to fly around the world without a drop of fuel made an unscheduled stop Monday night in Nagoya, Japan, because of bad weather.

Plane was amid longest leg of round-the-world flight

Solar Impulse 2 lands at Nagoya airport

7 years ago
Duration 3:02
Unscheduled stop in round-the-world attempt amid the longest leg of flight
A solar plane attempting to fly around the world without a drop of fuel made an unscheduled stop Monday night in Nagoya, Japan, because of bad weather. 

RAW: Solar plane takes off for round-the-world flight

7 years ago
Duration 1:02
Solar Impulse 2 departs from China in the first attempt to fly around the world without a drop of fuel

Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg took off from Nanjing, China, on Sunday on what was to be the longest leg of the journey, a six-day, 8,175-kilometre (5,079-mile) flight to Hawaii.

Instead, the Solar Impulse 2 landed safely at Nagoya Airport in central Japan shortly before 11 a.m. ET.

Japanese Transport Ministry and Nagoya airport officials said earlier that they were arranging for the landing to occur after the airport's usual closing hours to accommodate the plane with a wide wingspan.

Live Internet feed on the organizers' website showed crewmembers in the control room applauding and cheering at the landing. Borschberg, who emerged from the cockpit with a full smile, was mobbed by the project's ground staff welcoming his safe arrival.

Bertrand Piccard, Initiator, Chairman and Co-Pilot of Solar Impulse 2, told the organizer's live feed, Solar Impulse TV that it was unfortunate the weather turned bad when the flight was going very well. He said the plane will continue its journey to Hawaii when the weather improves.

The Solar Impulse 2, a solar powered plane, touched down at Nagoya airport in Japan shortly before 11 a.m. ET on June 1. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

"You know, it's one of these strange moments of life between elation and disappointment," he said. The team has achieved the longest flight ever of a solar plane going through the night, but the front is too dangerous to cross ..."

"It's just the weather doesn't fit. Everything we could do has been done and was successful. What we cannot control is the weather. So we land in Nagoya, we wait for better conditions, and we continue," he said.

Elke Neumann, a spokeswoman for the Solar Impulse project, said from Nanjing that the team had noticed the weather more than a day ago.

"We thought we might go through it," she said. "But between Japan and Hawaii there's no place to stop."

The Nagano mountain area is pictured by Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg in the cockpit of the Solar Impulse 2 hours before landing in Japan. The solar-powered plane is attempting a round-the-world flight. (Andre Borschberg/Solar Impulse/Reuters)

The safety of the pilot and the plane are a priority, and they will likely wait a few days in Japan until the weather changes, she said.

Solar Impulse 2 needs room to land, so it generally avoids times when commercial flights are operating, Neuman said. The plane also usually lands at night, because the winds tend to be lower. It needs wind to be no more than 10 knots, she said.

"We are a little bit sad, because everything's functioning perfectly: The batteries are charging, there's enough sun, the pilot is in good health, he's in good condition — it's all working well," Neumann said.

At the time of landing, the plane's batteries were still 74 percent charged, according to the organizer website.

The journey started in March in Abu Dhabi, and the plane has stopped in Oman, India, Myanmar and China. The flight from Nanjing to Hawaii is the seventh of 12 flights and the riskiest.

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