Around the World in 139 Days: And Without Fuel

It’s an event that is likely to go down in history. The aim of this historic round-the-world-flight is to prove the power of clean technology to change the world.

by Kelly Clarke, Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab Emirates / July 26, 2016
Solar Impulse 2 flying over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Flickr/Solar Impulse

(TNS) -- “The night was turbulent and it was difficult for Bertrand Piccard to sleep.”

These were the words that appeared on Solar Impulse 2’s (Si2) log book as it made its way to Abu Dhabi to conclude the last leg of its round-the-world solar flight.

At 03.38 (UAE time) on July 24, Flight 17 took off from Cairo International Airport, on a mission to reach its final destination at Al Bateen Airport in Abu Dhabi, 48 hours later.

Just moments after take-off, the plane’s pilot Bertrand Piccard tweeted passionately about the journey he had long dreamt of. Using his official Twitter handle @bertrandpiccard, he wrote: “Just took off from #cairo to achieve the 1st round-the-world solar flight. A dream I have since 1999 #futureisclean.”

With minute-to-minute live updates from the plane’s on-ground team, Piccard’s sleepless night was blamed as a result of “confronting new flight conditions”, including high temperatures, upward and downward drafts, and winds.

Taking First Flight

Piccard is one of two pilots — alongside Andre Borschberg — taking to the skies in this pathbreaking eco-friendly aircraft.

The solar-powered plane first took off from Abu Dhabi in March 2015, with Borschberg piloting the inaugural flight.

This time around, however, Piccard was in pilot’s seat, taking Si2 back to where it all began — the UAE’s very own Capital.

Keeping a close eye on Piccard’s route from take-off in Cairo to his landing this morning, the UAE Minister of State Dr Sultan Al Jaber wished the Swiss pilot a good flight after initial take-off. He followed up by saying they will meet again soon in Abu Dhabi.

Posting the interaction on Twitter, champion of sustainable and renewable enery, @Masdar (the planned city project in Abu Dhabi), wrote: “HE Dr Sultan Al Jaber, #UAE Minister of State, on a call with @BertrandPiccard as @SolarImpulse approaches #AbuDhabi.”

At 14.30 (UAE time) on July 25, Solar Impulse 2 had completed 35 hours and two minutes of the estimated 48-hour journey. With a distance of 2,079km covered, the moment marked 77 per cent completion of the total journey.

A Powerful Message

Despite battling some difficult weather conditions from the plane’s tiny cockpit, Piccard remained undeterred in spreading his message of a cleaner future for all. Speaking to the new head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Patricia Espinosa, Piccard discussed what they must accomplish together to ensure a better future.

Tweeting live updates from the chat, the UN Climate Action (@UNFCCC) wrote: “LIVE: @SolarImpulse pilot @BertrandPiccard now speaking with our head @PEspinosaC.”

As he continued to soar over the Middle Eastern desert at 14:40 on July 25, the Si2 posted another update: “15 hours... and it’s done! Solar Impulse will have completed the round-the-world trip powered by the sun. How do you feel?”

In response to the question, thousands took to social media to offer Piccard some final words of encouragement. Saudi Arabia-based, Lothar Degen, wrote: “Bertrand, congratulations to your huge achievement. You are a living role model for me! And say hello to Dammam, been living there for 2 years.” UAE-based Colm Kelly says! (@Ck311y) tweeted: “They are almost home! #solarimpulse #solarflight @solarimpulse #si2 #abudhabi.”

A Historic Moment

Just hours before the experimental aircraft’s touchdown in Abu Dhabi, the on-ground team posted the words: “Bertrand Piccard is bringing Si2 back to its starting point after having travelled around the world”.

It’s an event that is likely to go down in history. The aim of this historic round-the-world-flight is to prove the power of clean technology to change the world.

Describing it as “the beginning of the clean technology revolution”, Si2 has travelled more than 40,000km — but its message promoting a cleaner future has reached many millions around the world.

©2016 the Khaleej Times (Dubai, United Arab Emirates) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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