Wing damage grounds Solar Impulse in Japan | News | DW | 04.06.2015
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Wing damage grounds Solar Impulse in Japan

Solar Impulse 2's plans to circle the world were put on hold after a storm damaged the plane's wing. Repairs, which organizers called a "little delay," will take about a week, and then the plane will take off for Hawaii.

The wing of the Solar Impulse 2, the solar-powered plane attempting to fly around the world, was damaged by wind gusts and rain while on the ground during storms in Japan, the project's organizers announced on Wednesday.

"The technical team already started to build some spare parts but it will keep us on the ground for at least one week before we can carry on," Bertrand Piccard, the head of the project and one of Solar Impulse 2's pilots, told reporters. "It's not a big issue for the project itself but it's a little additional delay."

The plane had taken off from Nanjing in eastern China on Sunday for what was expected to be an 8,175-kilometer (5,080-mile), six-day flight to Hawaii, but bad weather over the Pacific led organizers to land the plane in Nagoya, Japan, on Monday. The flight had previously been delayed for over a month because of weather concerns.

"There was so much wind and gusts that this cover started to shake on the wing and damaged an aileron on the trailing edge of the wing," Piccard, the head of the project, said in a video posted on the expedition's website.

The aileron, which is a hinge on the wing used to control a plane's roll, was damaged before a support team was able to inflate a portable hanger for the plane in Japan.

When Solar Impulse 2's command team give the go-ahead, Andre Borschberg, the project's co-founder and co-pilot, will fly the plane on a five-day journey to Hawaii. If successful, the trip will break the record he set for continuous solar-powered flight of 44 hours - logged on the shortened Nanjing-Nagoya leg of the flight during the past week.

Solar Impulse 2 started its worldwide trip in Abu Dhabi on March 9 and had scheduled in 12 stops. If the plane reaches Hawaii, it will continue across the United States and eventually the Atlantic Ocean. The project, in planning for over 12 years, was designed to raise awareness of climate change and sustainable energy.

sms/msh (dpa, AFP, AP)

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