This is the book of the doctor and of the psychotherapist that I wanted to write. Not the one of the pilot. Of course, my experience as an explorer has influenced me, and explains the questioning tone of curiosity reflected throughout the chapters. But the subject is life, communication, autohypnosis, crisis management, and spirituality, all from the angle of the different altitudes and visions of the world that give you more freedom to think and act. These may even give us the will to try new and more creative behavior in order to live better on a daily basis. I really enjoyed writing this book; sitting with a pen in front of a block of paper and being able to write down the ideas that I have been accumulating for years. My aim has been to make a practical booklet, with examples and concrete propositions to incentivize change and evolution.
You tell me whether I succeeded!
Since Markus, our test pilot, first flew it in June, followed by André about ten days ago, my impatience became more and more difficult to contain! When I climbed into the cockpit, I felt a mixture of excitement, concentration, and gratitude to all the team who had contributed to the construction of this technological gem.
To familiarize myself with the aircraft, I started by doing some taxi trials on the runway. Then came the moment to set full power on all four electric motors… and to feel my heart-rate speed up slightly. Once I heard Nils, the ground team chief, say "Main wheel lift-off" in my headset, I could start an hour-long taming of this huge 72 meter wingspan monster. Nothing is done as in a normal plane, so the simulator training sessions really paid off. Then, I had to demonstrate three touchdowns in order to convince Raymond Clerc, my flight instructor. Followed by a champagne celebration with the team!
This flight was a key milestone in the final run-up to the round-the-world flight. But next year’s adventure will be much more difficult, with flights of up to 5 consecutive days and nights! Today, at least we know that André and I are ready to attempt it.
When I was a child I saw my father dive to the deepest point of the ocean with the Bathyscaphe; that was actually my first inspiration. Today, with scientific exploration, I want to inspire others to also achieve the Impossible, thanks to Pioneering Spirit. It’s exactly this kind of spirit that I would like to see you develop throughout the @Amazers’ Challenge starting today. So let’s get started!
When my grand-father invented the pressurized cabin and made in 1931 the first flight ever in the stratosphere, one of his goals was to demonstrate that it was possible to reach an altitude where the fuel consumption would be smaller due to thinner air. Eco friendly aviation was born on that day. This is why I committed myself to achieve the ultimate energy saving : flying around the world with no fuel at all. This is the goal of Solar Impulse for 2015.
Will commercial aviation soon be able to transport passengers on solar power only ? I would be crazy to answer yes and stupid to answer no ! The technology for it doesn’t exist today, but it was also impossible to transport passengers with fuel when the Wright Brothers did their first flights in 1903.
This is why I believe in the developments made by my friend Richard Branson for a cleaner aviation. Biofuel of third generation to decrease the consumption of fossil energy, but also another project I follow with high interest : Virgin Galactic. Not only to bring tourists to the edge of space, but to prepare suborbital air transport. Can you imagine a take-off in Europe with clean energy, a climb to 100 km high, followed by a parabolic flight to Australia and a landing after 1 hour ? And you get a zero-gravity experience for the same price… This is what I see as the future of commercial air transport.
Meanwhile, we’ll witness the emergence of cleaner aviation: lighter airplanes, more direct routes, constant descent approaches, and electric motors. I bet that battery driven airplanes with 2 to 4 seats will be available in 5 years time.
We need visions to become a reality. The impossible can be achieved only if we learn how to think and act outside of the usual certitudes and convictions. This is called pioneering spirit and it is what we all need to invent a better future.
Originally published in Virgin's Future Of Travel section: http://www.virgin.com/travel/the-future-of-fuel-free-travel-some-predictions-with-solar-impulse
The official opening took place on February 10 2015 of the Monaco Control Center (MCC) for the first round-the-world solar flight attempt by Solar Impulse, a project initiated by Swiss pilots Bertrand Piccard, Initiator and President of Solar Impulse, and André Borschberg, co-founder and CEO.
Drawing on the personal commitment of H.S.H. the Sovereign Prince and Monaco's exemplary commitment to sustainable development and the promotion of renewable energies, the Government of Monaco have chosen to support, alongside the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, the Solar Impulse initiative by housing the mission control center (MCC) on Monegasque territory in the Rainier III Auditorium and Congress Centre throughout the duration of the world tour.
The Monaco Control Center is now operational for the launch of the world tour (see details of the route in the annex), and ready to welcome the team of over 40 people to the facilities specifically fitted out for this adventure. (See details of the team's skills and expertise in the annex).
H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco stated: "Solar Impulse is first and foremost a quest for clean energy, capable of flying an aeroplane around the world without harming the environment; an energy capable of conquering the skies without damaging the earth. This project helps to show that the new low-carbon economy which the world needs is today possible, provided that we are fully committed to it, with passion, tenacity and inventiveness. This is why more than ever we need to promote research and innovation, as you are doing and as we are doing here in Monaco by hosting your project and supporting many others with the Monegasque State as well as with my Foundation".
The Monaco Control Center plays a key role in the implementation and execution of the project: it is here in this room that all the information needed will be collected and processed for us to configure the flights, follow the aircraft's battery level indicators, guide the pilots with their itinerary and stay in permanent contact with them via satellite communication.
"The Monaco Control Center will be the only place, other than the stopovers, where the public, media, VIPs and partners will be able to follow the Solar Impulse adventure when the plane is in flight" explained Bertrand Piccard, "and the fact that Monaco has been selected results from a long-established friendship with Prince Albert II who, in addition to being a patron of Solar Impulse, is one of the only Heads of State to champion environmental protection at all political discussions."
Solar Impulse 2 and the two pilots who will take turns flying the aircraft at every stage, will also pass on to the MCC all the information recorded during flights: which will enable us to know exactly the status of the aircraft and its position.
For André Borschberg "the MCC is an essential link for the success of Solar Impulse's round-the-world tour. This is where the decisions will be made for the departure and routes of each stage. It is via the MCC that the pilot will be in contact with the whole world. Monaco has provided us with the ideal infrastructure together with all the support necessary, the professionalism and outstanding welcome that characterise the Principality.
At the same time, the MCC is coordinating the support team which will be following Solar Impulse throughout its world tour and will be in permanent contact with the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) and the IAF (International Aeronautical Federation). It will operate 24/7 from the initial take-off to the final landing of this 12-stage world tour.
The voyage undertaken by Solar Impulse 2 is a pioneering attempt in the history of world tours: a way for the partners of this exploration to show how a spirit of innovation together with clean technologies can change the world. The aim of this adventure is to promote innovative technical solutions in order to combat climate change and support governments in their commitment to implement more ambitious energy policies.
Solar Impulse 2 (Si2) will take-off from Abu Dhabi, crossing two oceans and four continents, to complete its round the world flight. Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, the Swiss co-founders and pilots of Solar Impulse, along with their Partners, today revealed the detailed global flight route of Solar Impulse 2 (Si2). The first solar-powered plane able to fly day and night will land in 12 locations across the world and travel 35,000 kilometres in the first attempt to fly around the globe without using a drop of fuel. For pilots Piccard and Borschberg, the drive behind their mission is to demonstrate how clean technologies and a pioneering spirit can change the world.
Si2 will take-off from Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, in late February or early March and return by late July or early August 2015. The route includes stops in Muscat, Oman; Ahmedabad and Varanasi, India; Mandalay, Myanmar; and Chongqing and Nanjing, China. After crossing the Pacific Ocean via Hawaii, Si2 will fly across the Continental U.S.A. stopping in three locations – Phoenix, and New York City at JFK. A location in the Midwest will be decided dependent on weather conditions. After crossing the Atlantic, the final legs include a stop-over in Southern Europe or North Africa before arriving back in Abu Dhabi.
On 6th January at 08.24, Solar Impulse left Payerne, its base since February of last year, to fly to Abu Dhabi. It was in the belly of a Cargolux Boeing 747 that the solar airplane took off for the capital of the United Arab Emirates, in preparation for the launch of its attempt to fly round the world, planned for March.
With the help of Cargolux, Swissport, Welti-Furrer, and the Army’s Logistics Base (BLA), about thirty people were involved in loading the aircraft, which had landed late the previous afternoon. The process lasted late into the night and proved to be both complex and delicate, especially finding room in the wide-body for some twenty-five separate components. The trickiest part of the operation was positioning the fuselage and the 72-meter-span wing, disassembled into three sections that could fit into the aircraft’s hold.
In the end, everything went well. The operation was also a very moving moment. It was not just Si2 leaving Switzerland, but a whole phase coming to an end, so that now the long-awaited round-the-world flight can start. The entire Solar Impulse team is very grateful for the support received from the Municipality of Payerne, and the Swiss Accident Investigation Service (SESA), and cherishes the friendships that have formed during this long period of preparation. Having staged through Basle, the freighter arrived in Abu Dhabi at 19.04 local time (GMT+4).
Photos of the operation are on line.
Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg were just two of the delegation that included 120 Heads of State and Government, and over 800 leaders in business, finance and civil society responding to Ban Ki-moon's invitation. The spirit of the summit resonated around the world, including a gathering of 300,000 supporters in the streets of New York.
The political momentum has gained since the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in 2009: while previously the delegates only recognized the existence of the problem, the summit in New York saw a more positive and determined commitment to financing low-carbon development and the adoption of clean technologies. Indeed, a fund of $200bn was agreed by a coalition of global leaders.
“The only way to motivate people is to demonstrate the existence of solutions, not only to speak about the problem,” said Bertrand Piccard. “It was great to meet so many people acting to change the world,” continued André Borschberg.
The Solar Impulse founders announced Abu Dhabi as the host city, and Masdar as the host partner while standing alongside Didier Burkhalter, President of the Swiss Confederation, His Highness Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, Chairman of Masdar.
Bertrand and André were pleased to be back in New York just a year after completing their flight across America with Si1, the first generation Solar Impulse airplane. Their record-breaking journey in 2013 visited the cities of San Francisco, Phoenix, Dallas, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Washington and New York. Second generation Si2 will look to make stopovers across the USA as it attempts the first Round-The-World solar flight, commencing in March 2015.
The summit was really a positive time to develop the momentum for meaningful change in developing and adopting clean technologies, of which Solar Impulse is a pioneering example. The first Round-The-World solar flight will be bracketed by the forthcoming summit in Lima, later this year, and the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris at the end of 2015.