Monday, June 1, 2015

Bad Weather Forces Solar Plane to Land in Japan

Bad weather is grounding a solar-powered Swiss airplane in the most difficult leg of its journey around the globe powered only by the sun.

The Solar Impulse 2 will land Monday in the Japanese city of Nagoya, delaying a landmark attempt by the solar plane to cross the Pacific Ocean.

"The weather is deteriorating," Bertrand Piccard, one of the creators of Si2, tweeted Monday.  The diversion is "between elation and disappointment," he said.

Si2 is the brainchild of two Swiss scientists, Piccard and Andre Borschberg.  It took them 12 years to build the aircraft.

Si2 began its trans-Pacific journey Sunday, taking off from Nanjing in eastern China, headed for the U.S. island-state of Hawaii 8,500 kilometers away.  Sunday's trip began after extended delays awaiting suitable weather conditions.

The trans-Pacific passage is the sixth leg of the plane's around-the-world, 35,000-kilometer journey.

The carbon fiber single-seat Solar Impulse 2 aircraft has a 72-meter wingspan, which is longer than the wingspan of a Boeing 747, and weighs about as much as a car. The 17,000 solar cells built into the wings harness the sun's energy, allowing it to fly through the night.

Piccard and Borschberg say they are not out to revolutionize the aviation industry, but are instead aiming to demonstrate that actual alternative energy sources and new technologies can achieve what some consider impossible.

The aircraft's route includes stops in Oman, India, Myanmar and China.  After crossing the Pacific Ocean via Hawaii, the plane will make up to three stops in the U.S., touching down in Phoenix, Arizona and New York City, and possibly another location depending on weather conditions.

The final legs after crossing the Atlantic include a stopover in southern Europe or North Africa before arriving back in Abu Dhabi in late July or early August.


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