The aircraft is part of an experimental project to raise awareness about renewable energy
Poor weather could thwart attempts to cross the Pacific Ocean using a solar-powered plane. The experimental craft, called Solar Impulse, was forced to land in Japan on Sunday (May 31) after weather conditions in the area worsened.
Since the aircraft is powered by solar energy—it is fitted with 17,000 solar cells—it needs clear skies to store sufficient energy for its overnight journey, besides favourable winds to push it forward. The team’s meteorologists will continue to assess the weather before giving a green signal for the aircraft to take off.
Solar Impulse—which took off from Abu Dhabi on March 9 this year—is part of a Swiss experimental project to raise awareness about renewable energy. The flight is manned by Andre Borschberg. The aircraft has embarked on a 35,000 km journey around the world, and the crossing of the Pacific, spanning about 130 hours, is considered to be the most challenging leg of the tour.
Team member Bertrand Piccard, who has been monitoring the flight from mission control in Monaco, told BBC, “For the moment the road to Hawaii is blocked. We need all the data from the next weather forecasts, so that our weather experts can analyse what’s going to happen in the next four to five days.”
The pilots fear that further delays could have an impact on the later stages of the flight. According to a BBC report, the aircraft needs to cross the United States and then the Atlantic before the hurricane season starts to peak in August. But at the moment, there is little the team could do except wait for clear skies. “We have asked Andre to stay where he is. The weather is good and the batteries are charging,” Piccard added.
The aircraft crossed Varanasi in India to Mandalay in Myanmar on March 19, covering 1,398 km in 13 hours and 29 minutes.