Solar Impulse 2 has made a forced landing in Nagoya, Japan, aborting a Pacific crossing due to deteriorating weather ahead of it.
Solar Impulse is the only airplane of perpetual endurance, able to fly day and night on solar power, without a drop of fuel.
The aircraft, which set off from China on May 31, had hoped to reach Hawaii by the end of the week.
However, a developing cold front over the ocean is blocking its path and pilot Andre Borschberg has decided to play safe by putting down in Nagoya.
Andre Borschberg will now wait in Japan for a new weather opportunity to present itself.
The 17,000 photovoltaic cells on its wings drive propellers during the day but also charge batteries that sustain flight during the night.
The China-Hawaii stint was to be the seventh leg in the quest that began back in March from Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Andre Borschberg brought Solar Impulse into Nagoya airfield at 23:49 local time. A line of brilliant LEDs on the front edge of the plane’s wings announced his approach to the runway.
Because Japan was never a scheduled stop, the project has had to scramble to get its ground crew and equipment to the airport to meet the vehicle.
This saw the Swiss adventurer having to circle above Nagoya while preparations were made beneath him.
Solar Impulse 2 will now be tied down and protected from the elements in a mobile hanger while meteorologists and flight strategists look for a new possibility to cross the Pacific.
Flying the more than 8,000km from Nanjing in China to Kalaeloa in Hawaii was always considered the big test in the round-the-world flight.
Although disappointed at having being forced to make a stopover, the team is nonetheless delighted with the performance of its aircraft.
Just the journey from Nanjing has covered more than 2,850km – a new distance world record for a manned solar-powered plane. The time in the air, also, 44 hours, is a record in the same aviation class.
In completing a full day-night cycle on Sunday into Monday, Solar Impulse has proven its credentials as an “eternal plane”. That is, given the right weather conditions, Solar Impulse has the ability to stay aloft indefinitely.
Quite when the airplane will now get to go to Hawaii is anyone’s guess at the moment. It is unlikely to get a chance before next week. Andre Borschberg will need some time to rest, as will his ground crew.
Ideally, the team needs to cross America, and then the Atlantic, before the hurricane season starts to peak in August.