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Fri, Jun 15, 2012

Solar Impulse Returns To Rabat

Encountered Unexpected Weather Conditions On Flight To Ouarzazate

The Solar Impulse aircraft was thwarted in its attempt to fly from Rabat, Morocco to Ouarzazate Wednesday. The aircraft encountered unexpected headwinds and turbulence, and it was determined that the best course of action was to return to its point of departure. André Borschberg landed safely at the Rabat-Salé International airport at just after midnight local time

After leaving Rabat airport at 0807 Wednesday morning, the airplane made it about halfway to Casablanca before the decision was made to turn back to Rabat due to degrading weather conditions. In a news release, the Solar Impulse team said this situation is a perfect reminder of how challenging and difficult the Solar Impulse missions are, and how flexible and prepared the entire team and the host country must be. Thanks to the professionalism of both Masen and Strat'Events, the event management company, the last minute logistics and support were essential for the successful completion of the mission.

"To this day, every flight was so well prepared making everything seem so easy. Maybe too easy given that we almost forgot that the Solar Impulse HB-SIA is a prototype which was initially only destined to fly over Switzerland as proof of its ability to fly day and night without fuel. What we are doing today with these intercontinental flights is at the limit of its capabilities and each mission is a technical and human feat for the entire team," said Bertrand Piccard, Chairman of Solar Impulse and one of the aircraft's principal designers.

"This is an illustration of the height of the challenge this airplane, as well as the entire Solar Impulse team, are faced with both on the technological and human levels. I am confident in their ability to succeed in this second stage of the mission and I am certain that the emotion will be even greater," said Mustapha Bakkoury, President of the Management Board of Masen.

Solar Impulse was to have flown over the future site of the first power plant of the Ouarzazate thermo-solar complex. But Wednesday, the thunderstorms, strong winds and thermal currents were judged to be too strong for the fragile, experimental aircraft.

"Given the challenging meteorological conditions over the Moroccan desert, the team had already prepared all the possible scenarios, including a possible return (to) Rabat. The decision was the best albeit not the easiest to accept. It is an experience that renders us humble when faced with nature. When the headwind is faster than the speed of the aircraft, and when we are pushed back at an altitude of 8,000 meters, we risk to quickly losing all references. That is the moment when we need to decide to stop," said André Borschberg, CEO and co-founder of Solar Impulse has he exited the aircraft. (Image © Solar Impulse | Jean Revillard)

FMI: www.solarimpulse.com

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