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An Endless Adventure
25/07 - 2016

An Endless Adventure

From the beginning, my goal has been to promote the global implementation of clean technologies for a better quality of life. The way I found to make this attractive and visible was to accomplish the first ever Round-the-World solar flight. I wanted a credible demonstration that renewable energy can achieve the impossible. We have it now. Since André and I successfully returned to Abu Dhabi, nothing has stopped at the final landing. On the contrary, now, everything continues with even more strength and passion. The creation of the International Committee for Clean Technologies and the experience of the engineering team in developing electric aircrafts, manned or unmanned, allow us to go far "beyond Solar Impulse".  

We often say that Solar Impulse is an idea born in Switzerland. It's true, but it was "conceived" in Egypt, after the landing of the non-stop round-the-world balloon trip Brian Jones and I achieved in 1999. We had barely enough fuel to finish the journey, which is why I vowed that during my next adventure I would free myself from this fuel-dependency. It started with my vision of a solar-powered airplane flying around the world with perpetual endurance. What pushed me forward were my wife Michèle's immediate enthusiasm and communication skills, which allowed this vision to be transformed into a meaningful message.

What has been fantastic in this project is the number of people who put their trust in me, from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology who set up a feasibility study, to a family of 60 partners, individuals and institutions who provided the technologies and the funding to concretize my vision. But nothing would have been the same without my encounter with André Borschberg. At the beginning, it was a collaboration, in which André created and led the technical team who built the two Solar Impulse prototypes. But it then evolved into a partnership, where we managed the project together thanks to the synergy of our two radically different personalities. Our work relation became a strong friendship, nourished as much by mutual admiration and respect, as by a bit of healthy rivalry. It now feels strange, yet wonderful to think that we have accomplished together what many deemed impossible. They were almost right... We had to go through an incredible number of human, technical, meteorological, administrative difficulties, but that’s part of the adventure, and it stimulated the creativity, excellence and motivation of the entire team to succeed.

For this last flight of the Round-the-World journey, from Cairo to Abu Dhabi, Solar Impulse 2 was flying for the team. Usually when I’m in the air, I hope the flight will last as long as possible because being in Si2’s cockpit is such a unique experience. But not this time. During this leg, I was eager to land and celebrate with all of them waiting for me in Abu Dhabi and at the Mission Control Center in Monaco. Each second of the final approach, as my wheels were getting closer to touching the ground, I was thinking of each one of them and of all the memories we had created together. Solar Impulse 1, the European flights, the Crossing Frontiers mission to Morocco, the Across America mission, Solar Impulse 2, the Round-the-World journey… We have all learned so much together, we have grown together, and we’ll keep this extraordinary experience in our minds, in our hearts, for the rest of our lives.

When the propellers came to a stop for the last time on the runway, we all were reminded that, more than anything else, it was the start of what comes now, beyond Solar Impulse.

We have not shared a job, we have shared a life project, and our lives are not over yet. 

Bertrand Piccard

Blog published in partnership with Caran d'Ache

 

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