Solar Impulse plane forced to land in Japan, ending flight across Pacific

The Solar Impulse 2 plane, a project that aims to have an aircraft powered only by solar energy fly around the world, was forced to cut short the Pacific Ocean leg of its journey due to bad weather. 36 hours after taking off from Nanjing, China, the aircraft, with only Swiss pilot André Borschberg on board, made an unexpected landing in the city of Nagoya, in central Japan. The Solar Impulse was supposed to go all the way to Hawaii, flying 120 hours non-stop, and in turn set a new world record for the longest flight of a solo aircraft.

The meteorologists on the Solar Impulse team said they new from the departure in China that bad weather patterns were forecasted ahead, but conditions had not improved by the time the plane reached Japan. A spokesperson mentioned that the safety of the pilot and the aircraft are the group's top priority, and as there would be nowhere else to land before reaching Hawaii, they made the call to land in Japan and wait things out for a few days.

The flight from China to Hawaii was to be the seventh out of 12 total in Solar Impulse's journey around the globe. The team recognized that this leg was to be the most difficult, as pilot Borschberg need to go through five days and five nights of continuous flying, only getting 20-minute breaks for napping. Not to mention the threat that the weather poses, as the plane must have sunlight while flying in daylight hours in order to have enough energy to continue through the night.

"Everything we could do has been done. The weather we cannot control. This is what exploration is about," commented Bertrand Piccard, who has been alternating as pilot with Borschberg, via Twitter. The Solar Impulse team noted that they were a little saddened, as everything had been going so well up to this point, but they look forward to continuing after the delay.

SOURCE Solar Impulse/Twitter