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SOLAR DAILY
Solar plane completes first-ever Atlantic flight
By Cristina QUICLER
Seville, Spain (AFP) June 23, 2016


Pilot Piccard says solar flight is dream come true
Madrid (AFP) June 23, 2016 - Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard, 58, has just realised his dream of crossing the Atlantic ocean solo aboard the Solar Impulse 2 plane, with the Sun as his only source of power.

He speaks to AFP about this "magical moment", his hero Charles Lindbergh and the creation of an international clean energy lobby group.

Q: Tell us about this 71-hour journey

R: It wasn't an easy flight. You had to navigate your way between clouds, go above clouds, withstand turbulence, it was quite a tactical flight. There were moments where you had to really pilot (the plane), and moments when I could let go and realise it was actually happening.

Whenever possible, I would look out, everything calm and tranquil, and I just tried to soak in this magical experience -- when you fly without any noise or fuel, it's magic.

During the flight, I slept very, very little. But it's so amazing: you have the whole ocean around you, the whole sky, in the middle of nature, you fly with the force of nature, you fly with the sun. It's extraordinary harmony. I wanted to make the most of every moment.

Q: Do you feel like you're writing history?

R: "It's a flight I've been awaiting for 17 years. Seventeen years ago, I had this vision of a solar plane that would fly day and night, that would go round the world, that would cross oceans. When that happens, it's a magical moment.

I thought of Lindbergh (first man to fly solo across the Atlantic) because I met him when I was 11, we were both at the Apollo 12 take-off, and for me Lindbergh is one of these heroes who did what no one thought was possible.

I want to use this flight to pave the way for clean technology, for renewable energy. Because these clean technologies exist now, they're possible, you can cut by half the world's energy consumption thanks to clean technologies.

People in government, in companies lack this pioneering spirit that would allow these technologies to be used daily.

Q: So what next?

R: We should have two more stops (on Solar Impulse 2's round-the-world trip), one that Andre Borschberg (who rotates with Piccard to fly the plane) will do to Egypt, and the last one, that I will do if all goes well at the beginning of July to Abu Dhabi.

That will be the moment to use everything we did, all we have accomplished to this date to really push for clean technologies.

Where commercial aviation is concerned, being powered by the sun is still far away. For the moment, only one person can be on board. But all these technologies can be applied to 97 percent of energy consumed on the ground.

It's not our lifestyle that pollutes so much as the old technologies that we're still using.

Two years ago, I created Future is Clean, which groups together 420 associations. We have influential sponsors: Prince Albert I of Monaco, Richard Branson, Al Gore. But now we want to go further.

I announced with Andre the creation of an International Committee of Clean Technologies, because what is lacking right now is a neutral international organisation that knows what it's talking about and that can advise governments and companies.

Everything (now) is fragmented, with small associations that have a lot of goodwill but no means, and what I would like to do is gather them together to forge a common route and be a credible intermediary for all those who need to know how to use these technologies.

The Solar Impulse 2 landed in Spain Thursday after completing a 71-hour flight from New York in the first "magical" solo transatlantic crossing in a solar-powered airplane.

Applause broke out as the experimental plane set down at Seville airport in southern Spain just before 7:40 am (0540 GMT) where a team was on the ground to welcome Swiss pilot and adventurer Bertrand Piccard.

"It is so fantastic!", Piccard told the plane's mission control centre in Monaco in remarks broadcast online as the plane, which took off from New York on Monday, touched down.

Exhilarated, the 58-year-old told AFP he had thought a lot about aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh, the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic, during the 6,765-kilometre (4,200-mile) flight.

"I met him when I was 11, we were both at the Apollo 12 take-off, and for me Lindbergh is one of these heroes who did what no one thought was possible," Piccard said by phone.

With the success of this challenging crossing, Solar Impulse has completed the 15th leg of a round-the-world trip aimed at promoting clean, renewable energy.

It set out on March 9, 2015, in Abu Dhabi, and has flown across Asia and the Pacific to the United States with the sun as its only source of power -- able to fly through the night with energy stored in its 17,000 photovoltaic cells.

- 'Magical experience' -

The voyage marks the first solo transatlantic crossing of a plane with only solar power -- a trip close to Piccard's heart as he had crossed that same ocean in 1999 on the first non-stop air balloon circumnavigation of the globe without fuel.

"Good morning Seville! Do you have a lot of direct flights from NYC?" he tweeted with a wink shortly before coming in to land, when he was treated to a surprise acrobatic display put on by the Spanish air force.

Piccard got little sleep during the near three-day journey, surviving on short catnaps.

He experienced what he described as "a long night of turbulence" but was also treated to sightings of whales and icebergs, and even spotted a commercial plane flying past him.

"I just tried to soak in this magical experience -- when you fly without any noise or fuel, it's magic," he said.

Piccard said he had been guided by a group of engineers and meteorologists who had enabled him to face challenges and pass through clouds as if "through the eye of a needle."

Solar Impulse is being flown on its 35,400-kilometre trip round the world in stages, with Piccard and his Swiss compatriot Andre Borschberg taking turns at the controls of the single-seat plane.

Borschberg piloted a 8,924-kilometre flight between Japan and Hawaii that lasted 118 hours, smashing the previous record for the longest uninterrupted journey in aviation history.

After the Atlantic crossing, Borschberg is due to fly to Egypt, and Piccard will make the final journey back to Abu Dhabi in early July.

- Like sci-fi -

No heavier than a car but with the wingspan of a Boeing 747, Solar Impulse typically travels at a mere 48 kilometres per hour (36 miles per hour), although its flight speed can double when exposed to full sunlight.

Borschberg and Piccard say they want to raise awareness of renewable energy sources and technologies with their project.

"When you fly in a plane like this, you have the impression of being in a science fiction story," Piccard said.

"You look at the sun above you, and then you realise that the sun is providing the necessary energy to run the four electric engines and charge the batteries, spend the night flying and continue the next day.

"At the same time it's not science fiction, it's the present, it's today," he added.

"When you see what can be done with this clean energy, you think 'why is it not used more everywhere'?"


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