Poor weather has forced André Borschberg to land in Nagoya, 36 hours into the 7th and most gruelling leg of the R-T-W flight from Nanjing to Hawaii.
Elation and disappointment were the emotions expressed by leaders of the Solar Impulse team as a cold weather front forced pilot André Borschberg to divert the plane to Komaki Airport in Nagoya, 36 hours into his estimated 120-hour flight across the Pacific ocean.
Elation because until that point the Si2 had flown very well; the take-off was smooth, the technical performance was optimal and the pilot was in good health, not to mention that Borschberg had broken two of his own world records for the longest flight (time), at 44 hours and 10 minutes, the longest distance flown in solar-powered airplane, roughly 2,850 kilometers.
In an interview, Solar Impulse initiator and Chairman Bertrand Piccard said the completion of a night-day flight cycle from the take-off on Sunday into Monday, lending credibility to the concept of the ‘perpetually flying’ plane with no fuel, compensates for the disappointment of having to abandon the non-stop crossing attempt over the Pacific from Nanjing to Hawaii.
Ultimately, the risk of crossing the weather front and continuing non-stop to Hawaii was too great, both for plane and pilot.
“We are not daredevils, we are explorers,” said Piccard, who is alternating turns in the cockpit with Borschberg on the planned 35,000 kilometer journey that began March 9 in Abu Dhabi.
The Solar Impulse ground team, which for the unscheduled landing of the plane in Japan was just a skeleton crew, is now doing its best to protect the plane from the elements in Nagoya.
While Borschberg and the team will take a brief period to rest, Raymond Clerc, the mission and flight director, and Solar Impulse’s team of meteorologists are now working on the major task at hand: Finding a suitable window to fly on to Hawaii sooner rather than later, so Solar Impulse 2’s round-the-world mission can take advantage of optimal weather conditions over the U.S. and the Atlantic Ocean later this summer.