Solar plane touches down in China

The zero-fuel aeroplane Solar Impulse 2 has touched down in eastern China. (AAP)

The zero-fuel aeroplane Solar Impulse 2 has touched down in eastern China. (AAP)

Solar Impulse 2 has touched down safely in Nanjing airport to complete the sixth leg of a round-the-world journey promoting renewable energy.

Swiss pilot Bertrand Piccard landed the zero-fuel aeroplane late on Tuesday in the eastern Chinese city about 200 kilometres from the coast after an approximate 17-hour, 1190-kilometre flight.

The ultralight, ultra-efficient craft took off before dawn on Tuesday after a three-week stop-over in the south-western city of Chongqing, the longest delay since the plane left Abu Dhabi earlier in March.

It had been due to make a brief stop and quickly travel on to Nanjing, but was held up by weather and safety concerns.

‘The team had to find a weather slot,’ Piccard said.

Piccard’s partner in the Solar Impulse effort, Andre Borschberg, was originally scheduled to pilot the single-seater plane to Nanjing but after catching shingles he returned to Switzerland “to make sure he is fully operational for our big challenge: the Pacific,” as Picard tweeted.

The team will stop in Nanjing for at least 10 days, checking over the aircraft and running through a training programme ahead of the first Pacific leg.

As the engineer of the partnership, Borschberg wants to do the likely five-day, five-night solo crossing to Hawaii: an estimated distance of more than 8000 kilometres.

Powered by more than 17,000 solar cells installed on its wings, Solar Impulse 2 is scheduled to make 12 stops, with a total flight time of about 25 days spread over five months.


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