• Switzerland's news in English

Solar Impulse nears round-the-world takeoff

AFP · 2 Mar 2015, 10:17

Published: 02 Mar 2015 10:17 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Organizers hope that fuel-free aircraft may head off around the globe as early as Saturday but caution that the launch is dependent on the weather, even in the relatively cloudless Gulf.
The hour-long test flight was the plane's third from the UAE capital Abu Dhabi's small Al-Bateen airport, but the first for Solar Impulse chairman Bertrand Piccard, the descendant of a family of Swiss scientist-adventurers.
The pilot reported no problems, mission chiefs said.
"Hopefully next weekend, if the weather is good, we will be in the air going 35,000 kilometres (21,748 miles) to the east until we come back here," Piccard told AFP.
The project is the fruit of 13 years of research and testing by Piccard and Andre Borschberg, two Swiss pilots whose idea was initially ridiculed by the aviation industry.
Their plane is powered by more than 17,000 solar cells built into its wings which, at 72 metres (236 feet), are almost as long as those of an Airbus A380 superjumbo.
The light-weight carbon fibre aircraft weighs only 2.3-tonnes, about the same as a family 4X4 or less than one percent of the weight of the A380.
The two Swiss pilots aim to demonstrate that "clean technology and renewable energy can achieve the impossible," Piccard said.
The world tour will see the plane fly from Abu Dhabi to Muscat in the neighbouring Gulf sultanate of Oman before crossing the Arabian Sea to India.
It will then head on to Myanmar, China, Hawaii and New York.
Landings are also earmarked for the mid-western United States and either southern Europe or north Africa, depending on weather conditions.
"From the operation point of view, this part of the world and the Middle East is the best location for us to start because it gives us the possibility
to fly over India and China very early in the season," said Borschberg.
"It also gives us the possibility to be back in summer with relatively good weather," he told AFP.

 'Historical first'

Story continues below…

The plane is the successor to Solar Impulse, a smaller craft which notched up a 26-hour flight in 2010, proving its ability to store enough power in
lithium batteries during the day to keep flying at night.
The new plane will travel at speeds of between 50 and 100 kilometres per hour (30 and 60 miles per hour), the slower speeds at night to prevent the batteries from draining too quickly.
Borschberg and Piccard will alternate at the controls of the aircraft because it can only hold one person.
Its pilot will be linked to a control centre in Monaco where 65 weathermen, air traffic controllers and engineers will be stationed. A team of 65 support staff will travel with the two pilots.
The aircraft is scheduled to arrive back in Abu Dhabi in July.
Two years ago, Borschberg and Piccard flew the original version of their plane on a two-month journey across the United States.
The new aircraft had its maiden test flight in Switzerland last June.
It was then disassembled in November and shipped to Abu Dhabi, where further testing has taken place.
"It is a historical first that we are trying to attempt," said Picard, describing the planned tour as "very, very challenging and difficult."
"Physically we are fine. Andre is preparing himself with yoga (and) self-hypnosis."

For more news from Switzerland, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Presented by MoneyPark
How to get a mortgage in Switzerland
Houses in Zürich. Photo: Pixabay.

Ready to buy? Here’s what you need to know as an expat about Swiss regulations, how to finance your purchase, and why you should use a broker.

Autumn in Switzerland: ten stunning Instagram photos
Photo: Swiss Tourism/Jan Geerk

Switzerland is beautiful in all seasons, but as these photos show, autumn is a special time in the alpine country.

Report: Swiss progress slows on gender equality
File photo: David Soulivet

Globally, it will take 170 years to achieve gender equality, according to the World Economic Forum.

Brothers go to court to stop suicide of sibling
File photo: Lisa Edmonds

Two men have filed a legal bid to prevent the Swiss assisted suicide association Exit from helping their older brother to kill himself.

Wawrinka snubs past form to reach Basel second round
Wawrinka beat local wildcard Marco Chiudinelli. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

US Open champion Stan Wawrinka has reached the second round in Basel after going out in the first round for the past four years.

Villagers asked to help fund bridge renovations
The bridge links the two villages of Veltheim (pictured) and Holderbank. Photo: Lutz Fischer-Lamprecht

The crowdfunding campaign by the two communes is the first of its kind in Switzerland.

Police discover body buried in Orbe house
File photo: Bas Leenders

Police have opened an investigation after finding a body buried in a house in Orbe, in the canton of Vaud, on Saturday.

Valais shaken by 4.2 magnitude earthquake
The earthquake hit in the canton of Valais near Sierre. Photo: Alain Rouiller

It's the biggest earthquake to hit the country for two years.

Swiss Indoors kicks off without champ Federer
Federer celebrates with ball girls and boys after winning the event in 2015. Photo: Harold Cunningham/Pool/AFP

Stan Wawrinka is top seed as injured Federer sits it out.

IOC hires Russian doping whistleblower as consultant
IOC President Thomas Bach confirmed the news. File photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has hired Vitaly Stepanov as a consultant and is helping his runner wife Yuliya.

Photo: Unterirdisch Ueberleben
Inside Switzerland’s largest nuclear bunker – 40 years on
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Photo: The Local
Ticino firefighters rescue cow from swimming pool
Photo: Antoni Da Campo
Vegan wins battle to be accepted by Swiss army
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Ten Swiss ski resorts named most expensive in Europe
Photo: Randy Kashka
Swiss women will ‘work for free’ for the rest of year
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Montreux throws hat in Olympic rings
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Seven things you’ll miss about Switzerland if you leave
Photo: Richard Juilliard/AFP
Man makes Geneva airport bomb threat ‘for a joke’
Photo: AFP
Solar Impulse team reveals plans for unmanned plane
File photo: Martin Abegglen
Swiss to vote on passport rules for 3rd gen foreigners
Photo: AFP
Swiss wingsuit hotspot Lauterbrunnen won’t impose ban
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Six reasons Switzerland isn’t as boring as you might think
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Report: Switzerland one of world’s best places for girls
Photo: The Local
Thief returns Swiss cow bells worth thousands
File photo: Wikimedia Commons
One in three rapists isn’t locked up: statistics
Photo: activistin.ch
Tampon-tax protest turns Zurich fountains red
Photo: AFP
Geneva police to lift ban on bearded officers
Photo: Marcel Gillieron/AFP
Suicide chef’s restaurant keeps Michelin stars
Photo: Lara de Salis
11 things the Swiss get tired of hearing abroad
Photo:  Ivo Scholz/Swiss-image.ch
Survey: expats in Switzerland have money but few friends
Photo: AFP
Swiss press criticize Bern’s 'capitulation' on immigration
Photo: Jura Trois Lacs tourism
German ex-policeman is Swiss city’s new hermit
Photo: Dmitry A. Mottl
Ticino votes to favour local workers over foreigners
jobs available