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Bad weather forces Solar Impulse to land in Japan

A solar-powered plane attempting to fly around the world is to make an unscheduled landing on the Japanese island of Nagoya. Risky weather conditions over the Pacific forced the Solar Impulse team to delay the next leg.

The Swiss Pilot Andre Borschberg

took off Sunday from Nanjing, China

(pictured), on the longest and most dangerous leg of Solar Impulse 2's trip: across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii.

But, after more than 30 hours in the sky, the team behind the venture said the plane would instead land in Nagoya, Japan. It's expected to touch down there after 10 p.m. local time (13 UTC).

"We saw this morning that it was not possible anymore to cross the front of bad weather, so we decided to make an intermediate landing in Nagoya," Bertrand Piccard, the project's co-founder, told DW from the mission control center in Monaco on Monday.

"The plane would have gone through big clouds, heavy turbulence, rain, ice, and probably would have drowned," Piccard said.

"We would have lost the airplane, and the pilot would have jumped with a parachute, which is clearly not what we are hoping for."

The project's control center is now preparing for the landing in Nagoya, after managing to clear the last-minute route change with Japanese authorities.

'No way back'

The plane set off from Abu Dhabi in March and is scheduled to return there in July or early August. It has so far stopped in Oman, India, Myanmar and China.

The 8,175-kilometer (5,079-mile) journey across the Pacific, lasting around six days, would have been the plane's first ocean crossing.

Before leaving Nanjing, 62-year-old Borschberg had cited Japan as a possible stopover in case of emergency.

"As soon as we leave this part of the world, then afterwards we are in the open sea," Borschberg said. "There is no way to come back."

The round-the-world journey had been broken down into 12 legs, with a total flight time of 25 days. Once the plane arrives in Hawaii, Piccard is expected to take over for the next flight to the US mainland.

Solar Impulse 2, part of a project to promote green energy, relies on more than 17,000 cells charged by the sun's energy.

nm/mkg (AFP, AP)

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