Solar Plane's Tough Pacific Flight Interrupted

Team will make unexpected stop in Japan en route to Hawaii
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 1, 2015 6:44 AM CDT
Updated Jun 1, 2015 7:07 AM CDT
Solar Plane's Tough Pacific Flight Interrupted
Bertrand Piccard, center, works with technicians at the Mission Control Center for the Solar Impulse flight in Monaco, Monday, June 1, 2015.   (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)

A solar plane attempting to fly around the world without a drop of fuel plans to make an unscheduled stop tonight in Nagoya, Japan, because of bad weather. Swiss pilot André Borschberg took off from Nanjing, China, yesterday on what was to be the longest leg of the journey, a six-day, 5,079-mile flight to Hawaii. Elke Neumann, a spokeswoman for the Solar Impulse project, said from Nanjing that the team first noticed the bad weather pattern about 36 hours ago. "We thought we might go through it," she said. "But between Japan and Hawaii there's no place to stop." 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.

The plane will land after scheduled flights at the airport end around 10pm. Solar Impulse 2 needs room to land, so it generally avoids times when commercial flights are operating. The plane also usually lands at night, because 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. The journey started in March in Abu Dhabi; the flight from Nanjing to Hawaii is the seventh of 12 flights and the riskiest. (Borschberg's co-pilot, meanwhile, flies while hypnotized.)

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