Solar Impulse Pacific Flight Cut Short


The Solar Impulse crew has cut short their attempt to fly from China to Hawaii on solar power, with a safe landing in Nagoya, Japan, at almost midnight local time Monday. Options for navigating a weather front along the route deteriorated, and the crew decided to land and wait for another opportunity. Despite the delay, the crew was encouraged by the airplane’s performance during the 40-hour flight, its longest yet. “The plane performed well with plenty of energy reserve,” said project leader Bertrand Piccard. “That was my dream, and the dream of all the engineers, and it happened last night. The plane could make it through the night with no fuel, get the sunshine in the morning, and continue. So we are happy about that. Now we have airplanes that can fly with no fuel forever.” Pilot Andre Borschberg also managed the long solo flight with no problems.

The landing at Nagoya means the crew will have fewer options for planning the next attempt across the Pacific. The launch from Nanjing provided the choice of either a northerly or southerly route. From Nagoya, the options now are limited to the northern route. Now that the aircraft has safely landed, the weather team plans to get some rest, and then start to strategize for the next launch window. Ground crews converged at Nagoya to provide landing support — a rider on an electric bicycle met the aircraft on the runway to grab the wingtip and prevent it dragging — and a special portable hangar to protect the aircraft will be erected at the airfield.