Weather Forces Solar Impulse Plane to Make Unscheduled Stop in Japan

by The Associated Press /  / Updated  / Source: Associated Press

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A solar-powered plane attempting to circle the globe without a drop of fuel made an unscheduled landing in Japan on Monday to wait out bad weather.

Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg took off from Nanjing, China, on Sunday on what was to have been the longest leg of the journey, a six-day, 8,175-kilometer (5,079-mile) flight to Hawaii. Instead, the Solar Impulse 2 made an unscheduled visit in central Japan and landed safely at the Nagoya Airport.

A live video stream on the Solar Impulse website showed crew members in the control room applauding and cheering at the landing, which took place at 11:49 p.m. Japan time (10:49 a.m. ET). Borschberg emerged from the cockpit with a full smile.

Solar Impulse Chairman Bertrand Piccard, who has been sharing the piloting duties with Borschberg during the months-long odyssey, said it was unfortunate that the weather turned bad while the flight was going so well — but he promised the journey would continue when conditions improve.

"It's one of these strange moments of life between elation and disappointment," he said.

The Swiss-based project is meant to demonstrate environmentally clean technologies. Solar Impulse 2 is an upgraded version of an earlier solar-powered plane that crossed America in 2013. All of its power is generated by more than 17,000 solar cells that cover the plane, and is stored in batteries that allow for all-day, all-night travel.

The journey started in March in Abu Dhabi, and the plane has stopped in Oman, India, Myanmar and China. The trek from Japan to Hawaii is considered the riskiest part of the 22,000-mile (35,000-kilometer) circuit, because there's no suitable landing strip over that part of the Pacific.

This report was supplemented by NBC News.

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