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Solar plane grounded at least until April 2016

Technical problems have forced organizers behind an around-the-world solar flight to delay the next leg until April 2016.

The setback for Solar Impulse 2 is the latest challenge for a flight that has already encountered repeated delays since setting off in March from Abu Dhabi. Weather problems grounded it for several weeks in China and then forced organizers to abort its first attempt to cross the Pacific, landing instead in Japan.

The plane managed to cross the Pacific and land in Hawaii July 3 - setting records for the longest solo flight and the longest using solar power. But the five-day trip damaged the plane's batteries, prompting organizers to first delay the next leg to Arizona until August and then, on Wednesday, for eight months.

"The record-breaking flight from Japan to Hawaii was a record-breaking first for aviation. It's a historic first for renewable energy. It's a huge success for solar impulse. But it has a cost. The cost is we overheated the batteries," Bertrand Piccard, a hang-gliding pioneer who was scheduled to pilot the next leg of the trip from Hawaii to Arizona.

Piccard said the new date was due to the necessary repairs but also because they wouldn't have completed the job before the end of the flying season. So the plane will remain in the Hawaii for now. During that time, the Solar Impulse engineering team will be studying various options for better cooling and heating processes for very long flights.

The flight to Hawaii was the longest leg of what was scheduled to be an around-the-world flight that was expected to take more than five months. Billed as a mission to raise the profile of renewable and clean energy, it now could take up to two years.

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