Bad weather forces Solar Impulse to land in Japan's Nagoya

ShanghaiThe record-breaking Solar Impulse 2 landed safely in Nagoya, Japan tonight on an unscheduled stop caused by bad weather over the Pacific. A live stream from mission control in Monaco showed flight controllers erupting in cheers and applause as the plane touched the tarmac in central Japan.

The high-tech aircraft had set off from Nanjing in China more than 40 hours earlier, bound for Hawaii, a distance of some 8,500 kilometres that it was expected to cover in a six-day, six-night non-stop flight.

It was the seventh leg of a round-the-world flight that began in Abu Dhabi in March.

But mission controllers determined earlier today that weather over the Pacific that the plane would encounter as it neared Hawaii made the flight too risky and diverted it to Japan.

Pilot Andre Borschberg, 62, who had spent much of the day in a holding pattern over the Sea of Japan (East Sea), headed south towards Nagoya, where he was met by a skeleton support crew.

"Weather deteriorating over Pacific, decision taken for intermediate landing in Nagoya and wait for better conditions," tweeted Bertrand Piccard, the initiator of the mission.

"On my way to Nagoya disappointed for not continuing but very thankful to the Japanese authorities for their support," pilot Andre Borschberg Tweeted.

The seventh leg of the round-the-world journey was set to take 62-year-old Borschberg on a six-day, six-night flight from the Chinese city of Nanjing across the Pacific to Hawaii, a distance of some 8,500 kilometres.

The super-lightweight plane, which is covered in solar panels, had spent much of the day in a holding pattern over the Sea of Japan as organisers examined forecasts on the projected flight path.

"Weather deteriorating over Pacific, decision taken for intermediate landing in Nagoya and wait for better conditions," tweeted Bertrand Piccard, the initiator of the mission.

"When we took off from China it was quite clear we could cross the front," Piccard said on a live video posted on YouTube. "It was almost easy, I would say, the weatherman was very confident.

"Now the window has closed. The (weather) front is too thick, too big. The plane would have to go through big layers of cloud. 

"The only safe decision is to stop in Nagoya, wait a few days before carrying on."

The flight from China had already notched up Solar Impulse 2's first overnight leg, with the aircraft relying solely on batteries charged by the sun's energy.

The flight from Nanjing to Hawaii was scheduled to be the longest section of the maiden solar-powered global circumnavigation, an attempt to promote green energy.

LEG 1: March9. Abu Dhabi (UAE) to Muscat (Oman) - 441km; in 13 hours and 1 minute
LEG 2: March 10. Muscat (Oman) to Ahmedabad (India) - 1,468km; in 15 hours and 20 minutes
LEG 3: March 18. Ahmedabad (India) to Varanasi (India) - 1,215km; in 13 hours and 15 minutes
LEG 4: March 19. Varanasi (India) to Mandalay (Myanmar) - 1,398km; in 13 hours and 29 minutes
LEG 5: March 29. Mandalay (Myanmar) to Chongqing (China) - 1,459km; in 20 hours and 29 minutes
LEG 6: April 21. Chongqing (China) to Nanjing China - 1,241km; in 17 hours and 22 minutes
LEG 7: May 31. Nanjing (China) to Kalaeloa, Hawaii (USA) - 8,200km; journey aborted, plane diverted to Nagoya, Japan

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