T1 Solar Impulse China 2
Weather grounds solar-powered flight ... again
03:01 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Solar plane, diverted by weather, touches down in Nagoya, Japan

Pilot had hoped to make the six-day journey to Hawaii

Solar Impulse team is attempting to fly around the world powered only by the sun

CNN  — 

The Solar Impulse 2 – diverted by weather from trying to fly all the way from China to Hawaii without using a drop of fuel – has landed instead in Japan.

The plane, which two pilots aim to fly around the world powered only by the sun, landed late Monday in Nagoya, about 320 kilometers (200 miles) west of Tokyo.

“Of course we are a bit disappointed not to have made the flight nonstop to Hawaii, but elated that our solar airplane made such a great demonstration of the potential of clean technologies by flying 2 days and 2 nights without fuel!” said Bertrand Piccard, Solar Impulse chairman and one of the pilots, in a statement.

The trip to Hawaii was expected to be the toughest leg of the Solar Impulse’s round-the-world voyage. It was scheduled to take five days – and maybe a bit more – with just one pilot.

The 8,000-kilometer (4,971-mile) journey from Nanjing, China, to Hawaii – dubbed the “moment of truth” by alternating pilots Andre Borschberg and Piccard – had already been delayed several times because of poor conditions over the Pacific.

But in the early hours of Sunday (Saturday afternoon ET), Solar Impulse embarked on the ambitious leg of the journey.

Mission Director Raymond Clerc said the route would see Solar Impulse fly over South Korea and northwest of Japan before heading out across the Pacific, and might take slightly longer than planned – potentially landing in Hawaii on the evening of Day 6.

But it wasn’t to be. On Monday morning the flight went into a holding pattern as a weather front blocked its path toward Hawaii.

“Yesterday we had the possibility to cross the weather front just before Hawaii on day 5. However, with the forecasts we now have, we don’t see this possibility anymore, which means that for the moment the road to Hawaii is blocked,” the team said in a emailed statement.

“We have asked Andre to stay where he is: it’s fine, the weather is good and the batteries are charging. During this time we will analyze where he will have to go to find a possibility to cross that front.”

Former fighter pilot Borschberg, who will be at the controls alone for the entire 130-hour flight, had expressed excitement for the flight after weeks of holdups.

Borschberg, who also flew from Abu Dhabi to Oman in March on the first leg of the plane’s 35,000-kilometer, five-month journey, said the latest journey would be “the flight of my life.”

He planned to spend the entire trip in the 3.8-cubic-meter cockpit, strapped into a special seat that serves both as bed (it reclines, allowing him to do essential exercises and to rest) and toilet.

At night, if there is no turbulence, Borschberg will be able to activate the autopilot and nap, but only for 20 minutes at a time.

He and Piccard have been trained in meditation and self-hypnosis, to allow them to concentrate for lengthy periods, and yoga to help them relax in the plane’s confined space.

Solar Impulse will be packed with enough food, water and sports drinks to meet Borschberg’s nutritional needs for a week, in case weather problems force it to stay in the air longer than expected.