First Intercontinental Flight For Solar Airplane A Success
The Solar Impulse aircraft designed by Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg has completed its flight to Morocco. The prototype landed successfully in Rabat-Salé airport at 2330 local time Tuesday evening. This is a symbolic victory for Solar Impulse as it is the first time the HB-SIA has landed on another continent, It is also the first time Bertrand Piccard has piloted during a mission flight.
After a flight lasting a total of 19 hours 08 min and 448 nm, Piccard landed the solar aircraft in Rabat-Salé international airport, Kingdom of Morocco. The Solar Impulse airplane took off Tuesday morning at 0522 from Madrid-Barajas airport in Spain following the previously scheduled flight plan over the Gibraltar Strait and the Mediterranean. The aircraft flew in the direction of the city of Seville towards the Strait of Gibraltar, flying over the Mediterranean Sea at an altitude of 22,600 feet and finally arriving in Rabat, Morocco, landing on Runway RW03.
“Aside from technical and political reasons behind the decision to fly to Morocco, simply the flight over the Gibraltar straight was a magical moment and represents one of the highlight of my carrier of aeronaut,” said an elated Bertrand Piccard as he set his feet on the runway.
The Solar Impulse project began in 2003 with a ten-year budget of 90 million euros ($112 million), supported by engineers from Swiss elevator company Schindler and receiving research aid from Belgian chemical company Solvay. The aircraft made its first international flight last month by completing a trip from the Swiss town of Payern to Brussels. The flight duration was 13 hours. The aircraft’s first flight occurred in April 2010 and was followed with a record 26-hour flight three months later.
Pilot Bertrand Piccard disembarked the airplane at Rabat, and was met by Borschberg and the head of Morocco’s solar energy agency Mustafa Bakkoury. "The flight was absolutely wonderful but I almost did not enjoy it because I told myself that Andre and I have the responsibility to bring this aircraft to Morocco," he said.
To raise awareness about solar energy’s potential, the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN), which is responsible for Morocco’s solar energy plan, will host the Solar Impulse team over a week before possibly heading, weather permitting, to Ouarzazate city where the first solar complex is being developed. “We are delighted to host this world premiere in Morocco and are very pleased with the presence of the overall Solar Impulse impressive team. We are also very thankful to each partner that could make this possible” said Masen’s President, Mr. Mustapha Bakkoury.
With a planned capacity reaching 160 MW, the thermo-solar plant is part of Morocco’s energy plan whose goal is to build five solar parks with the capacity of 2000 megawatts by 2020, reducing CO2 emission of 3,7 million tons. Solar Impulse supports this pioneering project which is in line with its own message and its philosophy of renewable energies.
“This flight marks a new stage in the history of the project because we have reached another continent. Furthermore, after almost 20 hours of flight, we landed with a full set of batteries. This is extraordinary as it represents an increase in confidence in new technologies.” Said André Borschberg as the Solar Impulse HB-SIA landed on the runway. (Images © Solar Impulse | Jean Revillard . Top: Solar Impuse lands in Morocco. Bottom: André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard with the Explorers Club flag.)