Nagoya, June 24: Mission controllers trying to fly a solar plane around the world cancelled take off from Japan early on Wednesday because of weather problems over the Pacific Ocean.
Solar Impulse 2 had been due to leave Nagoya, central Japan, at 2.30 am (1730 GMT) bound for Hawaii, on the latest and most ambitious leg of a bid to circumnavigate the globe using only the power of the sun.
But after a few agonising hours poring over meteorological charts and forecasts covering the next five days and five nights during which the flight was scheduled, mission chiefs pulled the plug.
"The flight was canceled because of the weather around Hawaii. It's a cold front. The priority is the plane's safety and the pilot's safety," project spokeswoman Elke Neumann told reporters in Nagoya.
Speaking on a web cast moments after climbing out of the plane's cockpit, pilot Andre Borschberg admitted he was "terribly disappointed", but conceded it was the right thing to do. "We were looking to find a way to make it, but I think it is reasonable not to exceed certain limits. The weather is so unstable over the Pacific," he said.
The batteries are full so the plane can fly any time: Officials
The featherweight flying machine was not supposed to land in Japan on its multi-leg trip around the globe, but bad weather en route from Nanjing in China to Hawaii forced a diversion at the start of June.
Ever since, the crew has been scouring long-range forecasts for an opportunity to restart its record-breaking journey. A chance to do so appeared to have presented itself today.
"We finally feel like we have a window to Hawaii in front of us. It will be confirmed at 12.00PM UTC! (GMT)" tweeted Borschberg earlier in the day. Take off was scheduled for the pre-dawn hours because wind tends to be calmer before sunrise, Neumann told AFP.
"The batteries are full so the plane can fly any time. Since the sun comes up very early in Japan, we are flying early... we fly much earlier, so we have much more time in the air," she said.