Solar Impulse, the zero-fuel solar powered aeroplane, has landed in Japan after being forced to abort a Pacific crossing due to deteriorating weather ahead of it.

The aircraft, which set off from China on Saturday (GMT), had hoped to reach Hawaii by the end of the week. But 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.

He will now wait in Japan for a new weather opportunity to present itself.

Solar Impulse "HB-SIB" by redlegsfan21 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

“HB-SIB” by redlegsfan21 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Solar Impulse is attempting to make the first circumnavigation of the globe by an aeroplane powered only by the sun.

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.

Mr Borschberg brought Solar Impulse into Nagoya airfield at 23:49 local time (14:49 GMT). 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 will now be tied down and protected from the elements in a mobile hangar while meteorologists and flight strategists look for a new weather window suitable for crossing 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.

Bertrand Piccard, who has shared the pilot duties in the single-seater plane over the past three months, told BBC News: “When we started a project like this one, we knew it would not be easy. If it was easy, somebody else would have done it before.

“When we took off from China two days ago, we thought we could go through the front and reach Hawaii. Now, we see the front has closed. It’s active. There’s rain, there’s icing – everything that’s dangerous for our aircraft. So we’ve decided to stop in Nagoya and wait for better weather to continue.”

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