The sunny side of solar journey
Solar plane pilot describes challenges
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