Swiss explorer and record-breaker ‘returns’ to Myanmar
Solar Impulse pilot Bertrand Piccard who flew the solar-powered aircraft in to Mandalay on March 19 is no stranger to the Golden Land.
As he recalled on the Solar Impulse live news channel – covering the attempt by Piccard and his compatriot Andre Borschberg to circle the globe purely on solar power – Myanmar offered him refuge during an aborted attempt to travel around the world in a high-altitude balloon back in 1998. Blocked by China from entering its airspace, and short on fuel, Piccard was given permission to land in Myanmar. Mr Piccard went on in 1998 with Mr Brian Jones to carry out the first non-stop balloon circumnavigation of the world, flying a total of 45,755 kilometres in 19 days.
Speaking from the pilot seat as he headed towards Myanmar on March 19, Piccard said he had a love of the country, the people and the temples and had visited again - in the wake of his first record-breaking success - to spend two weeks flying hot air balloons including a stint over the ancient city of Bagan.
The pilot and his colleague arrived with a message for Myanmar, namely the need to explore the possibilities of solar and other renewable sources of energy, and to move to discard reliance on fossil fuels. As he sat in the cockpit, he said he hoped their mission would inspire people in Myanmar.
In the blood
“Nothing is impossible” has been the constant mantra of record-breaking Swiss explorer Piccard, who is attempting to make history again – following his success with a balloon - with the first round-the-world solar flight.
Piccard is the scion of a dynasty of trailblazers: his grandfather Auguste was the first man to climb to the stratosphere in a balloon while his father Jacques was
the first to reach the deepest point of the world’s oceans.
Born on March 1, 1958 in the picturesque lakeside city of Lausanne, Piccard was greatly inspired by his illustrious forebears and was fascinated by challenge from a very early age. He has said a defining moment in his life was the lift-off of Apollo 11 on July 16, 1969 which landed the first humans on the moon. The 11-year-old Piccard got to witness the historic moment live from Cape Canaveral, Florida since Wernher von Braun, the inventor of the Apollo rockets, was a family friend.
“The moment was a turning point in my life,” he says on his website.
“There and then I thought: ‘These astronauts, who are now setting off for the moon, have a dream, and that dream is greater than the fear of failure. These heroes dare to do the impossible. They are doing something that no human being has done before them. That is true
Bertrand Piccard, below, and left with Myanmar President U Thein Sein