Sat, Jun 23, 2012
Solar Aircraft Traveled Across Deserts Known For Thunderstorms, Turbulence
After an unsuccessful attempt to Ouarzazate last week, Solar Impulse has completed its flight to Morocco’s Southern region. The prototype landed successfully at 0025 local time 22 June. This was Solar Impulse’s most challenging flight to date due to the hot and arid desert climate famous for its turbulence and high winds.
The Solar Impulse airplane took-off Thursday morning 0705 from Rabat-Salé. After flying in the direction of Casablanca, the HB-SIA made its way inland towards Marrakesh, avoiding the Atlas Mountains, and took up a course in the direction of the desert. After a flight lasting a total of 17 hours and 20 minutes and 369 nm, André Borschberg safely landed the solar aircraft in Ouarzazate International Airport, Kingdom of Morocco.
"It was a beautiful flight with some amazing contrasts between the coast and interior landscapes, but the highlight was the view of the Atlas Mountains: breathtaking," said André Borschberg to the Governor of Ouarzazate, Mayor of Marrakesh and local journalists after landing. "It still remains one of the most difficult flights we've done and it wasn't easy to find the adequate altitude to avoid turbulence, to charge the batteries and to avoid being too cold. But Ouarzazate was our final destination and we made it! It is a great satisfaction to finally be here for our project and our host," he said after exiting the aircraft.
This was the HB-SIA’s second attempt to complete the challenge of flying in an arid and hot climate known for its thunderstorms, strong winds and thermal currents, which can be fatal for the solar aircraft. Thanks to the sophisticated modeling programs of the Solar Impulse mission control center, support from the Ouarzazate meteorologists and André’s expert piloting skills, the flight went smoothly.
“Striving for the impossible is the DNA of our team” comments Bertrand Piccard Initiator and Chairman of Solar Impulse referring to the extreme challenge of reaching this difficult destination.
“We are glad André, Bertrand and the overall team could make this dream come true. We believed in their capacity to do so and are very proud to warmly welcome them in Ouarzazate where every single person was awaiting us”, said Mustapha Bakkoury president of the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN). Solar Impulse flew to Ouarzazate, the site of a plannes solar-thermal electric plant being built by MASEN. (Images provided by Solar Impulse Top: Aircraft departs Rabat. Bottom: After landing in Ouarzazate)
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