The sunny side of so­lar jour­ney

So­lar plane pi­lot de­scribes chal­lenges

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - By Pa­trick Ryan @that­pad­dyryan pa­trick@7days.ae

Fly­ing solo at 18,000 feet, in a plane pow­ered solely by the sun, might seem like a lonely ex­pe­ri­ence.

But So­lar Im­pulse 2 pi­lot An­dre Borschberg isays he feels he is in good hands, with dozens of peo­ple work­ing on the ground to help him plan ev­ery de­tail of the his­toric jour­ney.

And that’s just as well, given he can­not sleep for days while at the con­trols.

Borschberg gave 7DAYS an in­sight into what it’s like on­board dur­ing a live in­ter­view, via satel­lite phone, from the cock­pit of SI-2.

He was fly­ing from Tulsa, Ok­la­homa, in the US, to Day­ton, Ohio - and safely touched down early yes­ter­day.

Borschberg and fel­low Swiss pi­lot Ber­trand Pic­card set off from Abu Dhabi in March to cir­cum­nav­i­gate the globe, be­fore re­turn­ing to the UAE cap­i­tal later this year.

“This (the lat­est leg) is an 18-hour flight and con­di­tions are fine, you have to take it step by step,” Borschberg told 7DAYS shortly be­fore he landed.

“You have to be pru­dent and get there slowly but surely.”

He said, for­tu­nately for him, that while he is alone in the sky, his team on the ground are plan­ning for the days head.

“I am alone in the cock­pit but not in the plane. I have a big team in Monaco who are ca­pa­ble of look­ing into the fu­ture - when I say that I mean they can see how the weather is go­ing to be, which is ex­tremely use­ful.

“There are chal­lenges when you are ex­plor­ing, there are so many things that can be thrown at you that you have to be pretty flex­i­ble, as you don’t know what could come up.”

Borschberg said the flight was go­ing smoothly. He said he “per­formed some trou­bleshoot­ing with SI-2 oxy­gen sys­tem”, and also donned a heavy duty win­ter jacket when the plane climbed from 10,000ft to 18,000ft and tem­pera- tures dropped. He said the ar­rival in Day­ton was sig­nif­i­cant for the team, given it was the home of the Wright Broth­ers, re­garded as the pi­o­neers of mod­ern avi­a­tion.

The pi­lot later added on Twit­ter: “The #WrightBrothers in­vented avi­a­tion [as] we know to­day, when no­body be­lieved in it, prov­ing the im­pos­si­ble is pos­si­ble!”

Borschberg said he looks for­ward to the re­turn flight to the UAE in the com­ing months, hav­ing proven that al­ter­na­tive sources of en­ergy can work. He said: “We chose to start and fin­ish in the Emi­rates be­cause they have been shar­ing the mes­sage that al­ter­na­tive en­ergy is im­por­tant.

“There is a need to di­ver­sify our en­ergy sources and the UAE is aim­ing to make that fea­si­ble.”

Pro­ject of­fi­cials say the lay­over between the dif­fer­ent legs al­lows the two pi­lots to swap places, en­gage with lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties and ex­plain the pro­ject, which is es­ti­mated to cost more than $100 mil­lion.

FLY­ING HIGH: So­lar Im­pulse 2 fly­ing over San Fran­cisco last month. It landed in dark­ness in Ohio early yes­ter­day

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