Solar Impulse Breaks New Records Despite Setbacks

Solar-powered airplane forced to divert to Nagoya.

Solar Impulse Si2 in Flight

Solar Impulse Si2 in Flight

The Solar Impulse Si2 finally left Nanjing, China, this weekend to continue its flight around the world. What would have been the longest leg of the planned trip, expected at 120 hours, was cut short by unexpected weather conditions over the Pacific, forcing the solar powered airplane to divert to Komaki Airport in Nagoya, Japan.

While the diversion was another setback for the Solar Impulse team, which had been stalled in China for nearly a month longer than planned, the flight made several breakthroughs. André Borschberg was at the controls for more than 44 hours, setting a record for the longest flight both in terms of distance and time that a solar-powered airplane has achieved.

Charting new territory for the airplane, the systems appear to be functioning as expected. “The airplane has perfectly undertaken its first ever day-and-night cycle and in this regard the flight is already a success,” a Solar Impulse news flash prior to Borschberg’s landing in Japan stated.

Borschberg was in constant contact with the Mission Control Center (MCC) crew in Monaco. The crew found a cold front blocking the path from Nanjing to Hawaii, and it was determined that, while the batteries of the airplane were fully charged, the safest plan was to return to the ground. Borschberg was asked to hold over the Pacific while the team worked out an alternate airport.

The MCC crew was able to get clearance to land in Nagoya and Borschberg set the course for Japan.

Get exclusive online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.