• Switzerland edition
 
Headwinds force Swiss pilot to abort solar flight
Solar Impulse/Stéphane Gros (File)

Headwinds force Swiss pilot to abort solar flight

Published: 14 Jun 2012 09:40 GMT+02:00

Strong headwinds Wednesday forced the Solar Impulse to abort its toughest flight yet across Morocco, a week after it made history with the world's first inter-continental solar-powered flight.

The Solar Impulse team said it was drawing up a new itinerary for the challenge in Morocco's desert after the plane made a U-turn almost eight and a half hours into the 16-hour flight from Rabat to the city of Ouarzazate.

After the experimental plane arrived back at Rabat shortly before midnight (2155 GMT) on Wednesday, Solar Impulse spokeswoman Alexandra Gindroz told AFP:

"We are studying the meteorological conditions to choose another attempt for Ouarzazate or another solution."

The mission said earlier on the Solar Impulse website that the plane and pilot Andre Borschberg "are not in danger, but (the headwind) is hindering the advancement of the Solar Impulse to its final destination."

"The flight director has made the decision to turn back to the departure airport Rabat," it said.

The turnaround underlined how vulnerable the giant high-tech aircraft, which has the wingspan of a jumbo jet but weighs no more than a medium-sized car, is to natural weather conditions.

The pilot has a parachute in his tiny cockpit.

Fitted with 12,000 solar cells feeding four electric motors, the Swiss-built plane flies without using a drop of fuel.

Last week, it flew into history books as it completed the world's first inter-continental flight by a solar plane, flying from Spain to Morocco, a feat that capped a string of other firsts, including the first manned plane to fly around the clock on the Sun's energy in July 2010.

It also holds the record for the longest flight by a manned solar-powered plane after staying aloft for 26 hours, 10 minutes and 19 seconds above Switzerland, and has also set a record for altitude by flying at 9,235 metres (30,298 feet).

Ahead of Wednesday's flight, organizers said it would be the "most difficult the plane has ever undertaken due to the hot and dry nature of the climate as well as the proximity of the massive Atlas mountains" which tower up to more than 3,000 metres.

Flying above the Moroccan sand dunes -- the backdrop to the 1962 British cinema epic "Lawrence of Arabia" -- poses particular challenges such as thermal currents, strong winds and thunderstorms.

Earlier in the day, Borschberg had told AFP by satellite phone that the flight was going well and that he was planning to follow the coast, passing Casablanca and Marrakech -- at the foot of the Atlas mountains, before reaching Ouarzazate.

But he had also said he expected strong winds later in the evening in the Atlas region.

Last month, the solar-powered aircraft made the 2,500-kilometre (1,550-mile) journey from Madrid to Rabat, its longest to date, after an inaugural flight to Paris and Brussels last year.

The flights are intended as a rehearsal for the goal of a round-the-world trip in 2014 by an updated version of the plane.

The flight is live-streamed on the project's website www.solarimpulse.com.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
‘Sex boxes’ eyed to control Basel prostitues
Photo: City of Zurich

‘Sex boxes’ eyed to control Basel prostitues

Basel could be ready to follow in the footsteps of Zurich by establishing “sex boxes”, a drive-in zone for clients to meet prostitutes. READ  

Federer legend grows with Davis Cup win
Federer poses for a selfie with supporters in Lausanne. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Federer legend grows with Davis Cup win

It's taken him 16 years as a pro, but Roger Federer finally has won all there is to win in tennis — well almost. READ  

Davis Cup tennis finals
Fans give Davis Cup heroes rousing reception
Swiss Davis Cup team captain Severin Luethi hoists the Davis Cup as confetti rains down during Lausanne ceremony. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

Fans give Davis Cup heroes rousing reception

Switzerland’s tennis team received a heroes' welcome in Lausanne on Monday upon their return from Lille, France after winning the country’s first Davis Cup title. READ  

Swiss ranks 13th for mobile and internet use
Photo: Scott Snyder

Swiss ranks 13th for mobile and internet use

Switzerland remains behind a dozen countries when it comes to highest mobile phone and internet use for 2014, according to a report issued on Monday by the Geneva-based International Telecommunications Union. READ  

Bern museum to accept art looted by Nazis
Christoph Schäublin, of Bern's Museum of Fine Arts, making the announcement in Berlin. Photo: Ronny Hartmann/AFP

Bern museum to accept art looted by Nazis

A Bern museum announced on Monday that it would accept a German recluse's bequest of a spectacular trove of more than 1,000 artworks hoarded during the Nazi era. READ  

Swiss meat firm faces scandal over labelling
Photo: Jewel Samada/AFP

Swiss meat firm faces scandal over labelling

Obersee, an international private school based in Pfäffikon in the canton of Schwyz, has cut its contract with a Swiss meat company after discovering that Swiss chicken it ordered for its cafeteria was actually from Hungary, according to a media report. READ  

Swiss adventurer gains funds for space plane
Raphaël Domjan practising freefall jumping at Realfly. Photo: SolarStratos

Swiss adventurer gains funds for space plane

A Swiss adventurer planning to fly a plane to the edge of space has announced that work to build the SolarStratos aircraft will start in January next year. READ  

Davis Cup tennis finals
Wawrinka praised as key to Switzerland's victory
Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

Wawrinka praised as key to Switzerland's victory

Roger Federer was the toast of Switzerland once again as his victory on Sunday gave his country's first ever Davis Cup win, but the tennis great was quick to deflect the spotlight onto team-mate Stan Wawrinka. READ  

Cyclist on runway halts Zurich airport traffic
Photo: Roger Price

Cyclist on runway halts Zurich airport traffic

A 23-year-old cyclist evaded Zurich airport’s costly security system and pedalled onto a runway, bringing air traffic to a halt for around 40 minutes, according to a media report that is embarrassing authorities at the Kloten terminal. READ  

Davis Cup tennis finals
Federer gives Swiss first Davis Cup tennis title
Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

Federer gives Swiss first Davis Cup tennis title

Roger Federer gave Switzerland its first Davis Cup tennis title in Lille on Sunday by defeating Richard Gasquet of France in straight sets in the first of the final's reverse singles. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Switzerland's Christmas market season gets into full swing
Sponsored Article
Exclusive offer: Try out home exchange
National
Swiss National Bank chief calls proposal to boost gold reserves 'fatal'
National
Mudslides kill four people in Ticino and neighbouring Italy
Culture
British X Factor star seeks internet support for Swiss Eurovision place
National
Court overturns ban by backing right for schoolgirl to wear scarf
National
Swiss ranking for English skills worsens among non-Anglo countries
Culture
Swiss model and French TV star Nabilla held for 'attempted murder'
Travel
Switzerland's Zermatt voted best ski resort in the Alps by skiers
Sport
VIDEO: FC Zurich claims crime after 'vicious' tackle hospitalizes player
Tech
Federal government announces new '.swiss' internet domain name
National
Zany emergency: Basel firefighters rescue ass stuck in manhole
Business & Money
American jury clears former UBS top executive of tax fraud
International
Switzerland ranks second to Norway in global 'prosperity' index
National
Financial regulator bans former Coop Bank CEO for three years
International
Switzerland slips in World Economic Forum's gender equality rankings
National
Job candidates unhappy with hiring process in Switzerland
National
Glacier 3000 opens new foot bridge spanning two mountains in Vaud
National
Swiss seek special Unesco heritage listing for yodelling and watchmaking
International
Switzerland regarded as best place in world for expats: global survey
National
Red faces at Migros over Hitler and Mussolini coffee cream pots
National
Quarter of workers in Switzerland 'stressed out': new survey
Travel
Lonely Planet ranks Zermatt among top places to visit in 2015
National
Majority of Swiss back proposed new immigration curbs: poll
Features
Eritrean asylum seekers find refuge in Swiss monastery town
National
Expat American professor disputes 'unjust' Swiss citizenship rejection
National
Sputtering eurozone drags down Swiss economic growth forecast
Features
Swiss-based English expat writer lauds immigrant 'brains and brawn'
International
Our survey: Switzerland third priciest for food and drink from back home
National
Zurich market gardener sets world 'record' for heaviest pumpkin
National
Report: Switzerland's residents richer than before economic crash
Features
Geneva lab sleuths use high tech to help art world uncover fakes
National
Father of Scot missing since early September fears Swiss trauma
National
Foreign women give birth to rising share of newborns: latest figures
National
'Giant's penis' bloom in Basel uni botanical garden bigger than ever
National
Switzerland's voters reject public health insurance proposal
National
Zooming foreign immigration continues to boost Swiss population
National
Scientific study rings alarm over wellbeing of Swiss cows with bells
National
Geneva MP seeks ban on charging for tap water in restaurants
Business & Money
Switzerland's residents top world financial wealth list: Allianz report
National
Saint Maurice abbey in Valais celebrates 1,500 years of history
National
Streaming movie video service Netflix arrives in Switzerland
National
Professional Chilean base jumper dives to death in Swiss Alps
Education
ETH Zurich remains top university in Europe: QS world rankings
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

1,982
jobs available
The Local Spain is hiring!
The Local is seeking a new editor for our site in Spain to join our growing team of internationally-minded, driven, ambitious and clued-up journalists.
Details and how to apply