First Round-The-World
Solar Flight

After the Solar Impulse prototype’s 8 world records, when it became the first solar airplane ever to fly through the night, between two continents, and across the United States, it is time for Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg to move on to the final phase of the adventure: the 2015 round-the-world flight.


What better way to demonstrate the importance of the pioneering, innovatory spirit than by achieving “impossible” things with renewable energy and highlighting new solutions for environmental problems?


The route: Si2 will take-off from Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirate, in late February or early March and return by late July or early August 2015. The route includes stops in Muscat, Oman; Ahmedabad and Varanasi, India; Mandalay, Myanmar; and Chongqing and Nanjing, China. After crossing the Pacific Ocean via Hawaii, Si2 will fly across the Continental U.S.A. stopping in three locations – Phoenix, and New York City at JFK. A location in the Midwest will be decided dependent on weather conditions. After crossing the Atlantic, the final legs include a stop-over in Southern Europe or North Africa before arriving back in Abu Dhabi. Solar Impulse unveiled the flight path in Abu Dhabi alongside partner representatives. This included main partners Solvay, Omega, Schindler and ABB. They were also joined by official partners Altran, Bayer, Google, Swiss Re Corporate Solutions, Swisscom and Moët Hennessy alongside Solar Impulse’s host partner Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company. 

 

A great historic first: for such an adventure, as for any premiere, there are no references. We were, and will be, faced with a number of challenges, leading us to push the limits of technological, human and piloting performance.

Around The World: crossing oceans and continents

The Around-the-World Mission Flights will take place over 5 months from the beginning of March to the end of July 2015. Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, has been named Host City of Solar Impulse for the First Round-The-World Solar Flight, and will be the departing and landing destination.

Solar Impulse is currently in the process of confirming the steps from Abu Dhabi, and would make stops in Asia, the United States and in Southern Europe and North Africa before returning to Abu Dhabi in July 2015.

Host City: Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi, capital city of the United Arab Emirates, will be the start and finish of the first solar-powered flight around the world.

Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company, is the host partner of Solar Impulse. The team will be hosted by Masdar and Abu Dhabi at the start of January for testing and training before the start of the first solar-powered flight around the world.

Si2 was delivered in Abu Dhabi by cargo plane from the Payerne aerodrome in Switzerland on January 6th and has been showcased during the World Future Energy Summit as part of the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, which is hosted by Masdar between 17 and 22 January 2015.

This well-matched partnership will show Abu Dhabi to be a centre of expertise when it comes to renewable energy and at the same time Solar Impulse will demonstrate the far-reaching applications of clean energy during the first solar-powered flight around the world,” declared Bertrand Piccard. André Borschberg continued: “We have chosen this location as being the best and most suitable departure point for the round-the-world tour, due to its climate, infrastructure and commitment to clean technologies.

MONACO: MISSION CONTROL CENTER HOST PARTNER

In permanent contact via satellite with the airplane, the Mission Control Center (MCC) is the pilot’s “guardian angel

 The MCC is coordinating the support team that will be following Solar Impulse throughout its world tour and will be in permanent contact with the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) and the IAF (International Aeronautical Federation).  It will operate 24/7 from the initial take-off to the final landing of this 12-stage world tour.

 Twenty specialists anticipate every possible scenario and transmit information enabling the pilot to follow the optimum flight plan and complete his mission successfully.

 When flights are in progress, the flight parameters are re-calculated twice a day, taking into consideration the prevailing weather situation and amount of sunshine. Flight altitudes and track are optimized to ensure enough on-board stored energy to fly through the night.

Data: Around The World

An overview of the First Round-The-World Solar Flight, in numbers:

  • 2 pilots, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, flying one after the other in the single-seater cockpit
  • 1 airplane: Solar Impulse 2
  • Zero fuel on board
  • A 35,000km (22,000 miles) journey
  • 500 flying hours approx.
  • 10 legs approx., some lasting more than 5 days and nights
  • A 5-month mission (March-August 2015)
  • A 60 people support team

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

C’est le vol de l’équipe autant que le mien. Bloqués par la météo à Chongqing depuis 3 semaines, nous commencions à désespérer de trouver un bon créneau pour gagner Nanjing. André a dû retrourner en Suisse pour soigner un zona, et je le remplace au pied levé dans le cockpit.

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C’est le vol de l’équipe autant que le mien. Bloqués par la météo à Chongqing depuis 3 semaines, nous commencions à désespérer de trouver un bon créneau pour gagner Nanjing. André a dû retrourner en Suisse pour soigner un zona, et je le remplace au pied levé dans le cockpit.

Quel cadeau inattendu ! Les méandres du Yangtze, que je perds et retrouve derrière chaque colline ; des montagnes boisées taillées par des gorges et des falaises abruptes ; des milliers de petits lacs minuscules qui réfléchissent le soleil couchant ; et, ça et là, des villes immenses, de plusieurs millions d’habitants, dont je n’ai jamais entendu parler.

Juste derrière les lumières de Nanjing, un accueil triomphal de l’équipe, à la mesure de l’attente, à la mesure de la crainte de ne pas voir arriver l’avion. Un instant de bonheur qui me réconforte, alors qu’un SMS m’annonce simultanément le décès de quelqu’un que je chérissais tout particulièrement…

Upon arrival in Nanjing, Bertrand Piccard received the Diplomas for his world record-breaking flight between Muscat (oman) to Ahmedabad (India) completing the longest distance ever flown by a solar airplane in aviation history.

On March 10, 2015, after an eleven-hour pit stop ...

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Upon arrival in Nanjing, Bertrand Piccard received the Diplomas for his world record-breaking flight between Muscat (oman) to Ahmedabad (India) completing the longest distance ever flown by a solar airplane in aviation history.

On March 10, 2015, after an eleven-hour pit stop in Muscat (Oman) made by Solar Impulse’s CEO and co-founder André Borschberg, the attempt of achieving the First Round-The-World Solar Flight continued onwards to India. Bertrand Piccard piloted Solar Impulse 2 (Si2) from Muscat to Ahmedabad (India), flying across the Arabian Sea and setting a distance world record for straight distance, pre-declared waypoints record by travelling 1,468 km during Si2’s flight. The FAI (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale) reviewed the distance record claim dossier and declared it was ratified. Diplomas were delivered by the FAI Observer Jakob Burkard to pilot Bertrand Piccard after he landed Si2 in Nanjing (China). The record of straight distance, pre-declared waypoints 1,386.5 km was previously held by André Borschberg during the Si1 Across America mission in 2013.
The landing in Ahmedabad occurred at 11:25pm local time (5:55pm GMT) after 13 hours and 20 minutes of flight, reaching an altitude of 8,534 meters with a ground speed of roughly 100 knots.


"More important to us than the world record is the fact that Solar Impulse 2 is the first solar airplane to fly in Asia. It is also an honor of being welcomed by the state of Gujarat, a visionary state which leads India in terms of solar installation”, said Piccard and Borschberg.


ABU DHABI, MARCH 9, 2015

I’d never imagined that setting off to fly round the world would be so poignant. I’ve been dreaming about it for 16 years, ever since landing from my round-the-world balloon flight, and it’s hard for me to believe that the great day ...

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ABU DHABI, MARCH 9, 2015

I’d never imagined that setting off to fly round the world would be so poignant. I’ve been dreaming about it for 16 years, ever since landing from my round-the-world balloon flight, and it’s hard for me to believe that the great day has arrived. It's as if a new phase of my life is suddenly beginning.


We’d had a series of unexpected snags in recent days, including an electrical alarm just a few seconds before takeoff. Then Solar Impulse 2, flown on this first leg by André, disappeared into the mist. Unless it was into the tears that were blurring my eyes.


MUSCAT, MARCH 10, 2015

It is emotionally easier to be at the controls than on the ground. I'm finally in "pilot mode" to cross the Arabian Sea. And, as a bonus, to bring the first solar aircraft to Asia and break the world distance record. But already there’s a bit of nostalgia for the extraordinary welcome that the Omanis gave André the day before, dressed in white dishdashas, with colorful turbans and ceremonial daggers at the waist, contrasting with our prototype’s futuristic technology.

 

AHMEDABAD, MARCH 11, 2015

Vast bouquets of flowers, embroidered silk scarves laid one on top of another around my shoulders, the incessant crackling of blinding camera flashes: I am torn away in a split second from the cozy intimacy of my cockpit. There’s no room for doubt - I’ve arrived in India!


AHMEDABAD, MARCH 12, 2015

A mini-tornado shakes Solar Impulse’s tent and knocks the ventilation down onto the electricians’ workshop. Miraculously, Sébastien had left just a few seconds earlier. Danger doesn’t always come from where you expect it.


MANDALAY, MARCH 19, 2015

Seventeen years after my second, failed round-the-world balloon attempt, which ended in Burma, here I am on the approach to Mandalay airport. This time it’s a complete success. André tells me by radio to expect the most enthusiastic welcome ever granted either to Solar Impulse 1 or 2.

Behind me lie the Bay of Bengal and the Meghna Delta, where floodplains intersperse with meanders to create one of the most beautiful sights nature can offer. I flew at over 200 km/h thanks to one of my friendly jet-streams. And before me lies a country that rejoices in discovering that clean technologies and solar energy can be a source of social cohesion, peace and economic development.

It is night. My landing lights aren’t lighting up any of the pagodas. I'll have to wait till tomorrow to wallow again in the special aura of kindness and spirituality that once made such a deep impression on me...


MANDALAY, MARCH 30, 2015

I just love the unexpected gifts life brings.

Originally, I was supposed to take off at dawn from Mandalay and was looking forward enormously to flying over the local temples. The program was disrupted by the need to arrive earlier in Chongqing, and my departure was bought forward to 3:30 am, in inky blackness.

I was hardly airborne when illuminated pagodas swept away my disappointment. The spectacle fast became stunning, infinitely more beautiful than by day. Total darkness was punctuated with dozens of golden spots, each representing a temple glowing under floodlights. I fly north at low altitude up the Irrawaddy River, crossing Mandalay slowly. As slowly as possible…

 

SHANGHAI, APRIL 13, 2015

Solar Impulse is blocked by weather in Chongqing. Delays are accumulating. Our adventure is less easy than it’s seemed in recent weeks. André and I do one interview or talk after another in Shanghai for our partners. There’s no way you can tire of the amazing view of Pudong from our rooms in the Peninsula, where we are privileged to be invited to stay. The pace of growth in this city is frantic. For those who still had any doubt, the center of gravity of the world’s economy has indeed moved to the East.

Swiss Pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg Accomplished the Second Stop Over in China Before Embarking on the Historic Pacific Crossing

 Nanjing (China), April 21, 2015 – Solar Impulse 2 (“Si2”), the world’s most advanced solar-powered airplane and the first to fly day and night without fuel, landed successfully in Nanjing, People’s Republic of China, following a 20 day stay in Chongqing. With Bertrand Piccard at ...

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 Nanjing (China), April 21, 2015 – Solar Impulse 2 (“Si2”), the world’s most advanced solar-powered airplane and the first to fly day and night without fuel, landed successfully in Nanjing, People’s Republic of China, following a 20 day stay in Chongqing. With Bertrand Piccard at the controls, the solar airplane concluded the sixth leg of the historic trip around the world this evening at 11:28 pm local time China (3:28 pm GMT). 

My job as a pilot was relatively easy. The preparatory measures however proved challenging for our team of weather specialists and engineers from Si’s Partner Altran at the Monaco Control Center. We simulated all possible trajectories and exhausted all different strategies to get Solar Impulse 2 in the air; from defining pit-stops at airports along the route, to different speeds, altitudes and holding patterns. Throughout the entire process, the Chinese authorities have been unfailingly helpful and open to our ideas. We are amazed by the spirit of our team and the willingness of our partners to help us achieve our goal: The first Round-The-World flight without fuel” said Bertrand Piccard, Solar Impulse Initiator and Chairman. 

 This journey was also essential from a technical perspective as it was used to verify and fine-tune final elements in the preparation of the Pacific Ocean crossing scheduled for early May, pending favorable weather conditions. This last leg is bringing Solar Impulse one step closer to an aviation first – the next part of the circumnavigation will require flying five consecutive days and nights in a solar-powered aircraft to cross the Pacific, a feat that has never been accomplished before. 

 Commenting on the arrival in Nanjing André Borschberg said: 

 “Nanjing represents a turning point in the entire mission; this is where everything comes together for us as pilots after initiating the project 12 years ago. This is the moment of truth where all the technical and human challenges will have to be overcome. We now have less than a month to mentally and physically prepare for what will be Solar Impulse’s longest flight to date: a five day and five night journey across the Pacific Ocean from Nanjing to Hawaii.” 


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