André Borschberg successfully returns to Rabat

Although the flight was shorter than previously expected, the landing airport turned out to be the same as the departure one, ...

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Although the flight was shorter than previously expected, the landing airport turned out to be the same as the departure one, completed at 11:14 PM (UTC+1) this evening. A running joke within the team is saying André couldn’t handle the desert heat (43°C this afternoon), choosing the cooler and more enjoyable climate of Rabat instead.

Obviously that wasn’t the reason, but at least we know that the team’s spirit is still high and that André will be welcomed with glee. This situation is a perfect reminder of how challenging and difficult the Solar Impulse missions are and how flexible and prepared the entire team and the host country must be. Thanks to the professionalism of Masen, the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy, the logistics support for the unexpected chain of events were managed efficiently and effectively.   

“Given the challenging meteorological conditions over the Moroccan desert, the team had already outlined all the possible scenarios, including a possible return on Rabat. The decision was the best albeit not the easiest to accept. It is an experience that renders us humble when faced with nature,” said André Borschberg as he joined the rest of the Solar Impulse team waiting on the runway.

The fact that André and the HB-SIA have made it back safely overshadowed any residue of disappointment caused by the return to Rabat. Each and every member of the team is aware of the of the solar airplane’s limitations and of its experimental nature. The result is that we are all prepared for new challenges while maintaining a positive and supportive attitude.

As Bertrand reminded us during an interview with Solar Impulse TV, the HB-SIA was first and foremost meant to demonstrate that a solar airplane can fly through the night, but although it has exceeded its expectations by successfully completing an intercontinental flight, it still remains a prototype and technological experiment. 

Pilot: André Borschberg, CEO and co-founder

Take-off time: 13/06/2012 07:07 UTC

Time of decision to fly back: 13/06/2012 14:34 UTC

Time of landing: 13/06/2012 23:14 UTC

Flight duration:   16 hours  6 min

Average speed:    55 km/h

Average altitude:   5’000 meters (16'400 feet) 

Flight Distance:  780 km

Reconnaissance mission

As the flight to Ouarzazate becomes more and more a possibility, André Borschberg and Solar Impulse’s ground operations coordinator, Tahan Pangaribuan took the situation in hand and chose to launch a reconnaissance mission to “experience” local weather conditions. Why “experience „you might ask? Because the ...

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As the flight to Ouarzazate becomes more and more a possibility, André Borschberg and Solar Impulse’s ground operations coordinator, Tahan Pangaribuan took the situation in hand and chose to launch a reconnaissance mission to “experience” local weather conditions. Why “experience „you might ask? Because the duo will literally place lounge chair on the runway of Ouarzazate airport and absorb the beauty of the desert’s starry night.

It might sound like a rudimental meteorological forecasting system, but in this case it is essential as the HB-SIA will be faced with never-before experienced climatic challenges. As in every mission, Solar Impulse has the fortune of having an experienced and professional team of meteorologists carefully analyzing each segment of a planned flight. But given Ouarzazate’s desert-like conditions such as strong thermal currents, thunderstorms and strong winds, it will be a new and exciting challenge for the HB-SIA.

Nonetheless, to ensure that these frequent climate variations are manageable, aside from lounging in the moonlight, André and Tahan met with local meteorologists, collecting valuable information necessary to fine-tune the models provided by the Solar Impulse team.  

The importance of flying to Morocco’s Western Ouarzazate region, home of what will be the world’s largest thermo-solar power plant, is filled with symbolism. The symbolism is related to the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN) and Solar Impulse’s common message: to invest in innovative projects today for a better and cleaner world tomorrow.

It would be a wonderful achievement to add this succulent cherry on top of the Crossing Frontiers 2012 mission; let’s see if the arduous conditions will placate to our wishes in the name of innovation.

Stay tuned!

Sun-Powered Modernization

It is difficult to gauge the impact a Solar Impulse Mission flight has on a host country, but during the fifth day of events in Rabat-Salé airport, unexpected and telling proof was presented to us.

I had the pleasure to speak to Mohamed Saïd Moulin, Director General of

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It is difficult to gauge the impact a Solar Impulse Mission flight has on a host country, but during the fifth day of events in Rabat-Salé airport, unexpected and telling proof was presented to us.

I had the pleasure to speak to Mohamed Saïd Moulin, Director General of Aderee (National Agency for the Development of Renewable Energies and Energy Efficiency). Aderee was founded in 1982, initially as the Center for the Development of Renewable Energies (CDER) and recently transformed, in 2010, into a National Agency demonstrating Morocco’s commitment to scale up its clean energy production.

The agency is responsible for the overview of all renewable energy projects throughout the country in an effort to, in the one hand, raise awareness, and in the other, ensure that renewables are placed in the driver’s seat of the country’s energy agenda. 

Recently, the agency has provided 60’000 households in remote areas with the means for local solar power production, but the communities relentlessly proceeded to request a direct connection to the electric power grid, perceiving it as a greater sign of modernization. Surprisingly, since the arrival of the Solar Impulse HB-SIA in Morocco, the opinion about solar power is morphing from antiquated to modern. Moroccan media are talking about the solar aircraft daily, significantly influencing the population’s perception of solar energy and its potential.

“I truly hope that one day there will be a cable connecting Morocco to Switzerland directly to our solar power grid” stated Mr Moulin. His eyes were bursting with enthusiasm as he went on to talk about what could be achieved thanks to solar power: cooking stoves, fridges, cars, etc.  As I spoke to him, I could really feel the enormous potential sunlight has to become the modern energy generator. At this point, all that is left is to wait and see how sun power will connect the Atlas Mountains to the Alps.  

Inspiring little innovators

It was a delight to see the temporary hangar bustling with activity for the HB-SIA’s fourth day in Morocco’s Rabat-Salé airport. A full day of events was organized to introduce youth from all corners of the nation to the solar airplane as well as Morocco’s solar energy plan.

A hubbub of buses bulging with ...

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It was a delight to see the temporary hangar bustling with activity for the HB-SIA’s fourth day in Morocco’s Rabat-Salé airport. A full day of events was organized to introduce youth from all corners of the nation to the solar airplane as well as Morocco’s solar energy plan.

A hubbub of buses bulging with impatient youth paraded in the airport’s parking lot starting 8am this morning. It was a sight to see: as soon as the doors of the buses were opened, streams of youngsters rushed their way to the temporary hangar. They were all enthusiastic to see the much-talked about aircraft that landed in their country for its first intercontinental flight.

It is always interesting to observe children’s expressions when they are faced with something new and intriguing: eyes open wide, slightly parted mouth and chin up. But what was most moving was their sharpness, curiosity and thirst for knowledge. After André and Bertrand’s presentation of the project and the aircraft, all the children were allowed to ask questions. André’s favorite was a young boy asking if Moroccans could one day make it to Mars. I was particularly impressed by the maturity of the questions such as “Why did Solar Impulse choose Morocco?”, “What are the main materials used to build the aircraft?” and “Will children be able to fly in the aircraft someday?”

Just observing the interaction between the two founders and pilots of Solar Impulse with the flock of children aged between 8-14 years of age was inspiring and a reminder of how little it takes to make a difference in a child’s mind. Let’s just hope the visit will have a lasting effect possibly resulting in a Moroccan mission to Mars or a solar airplane capable of transporting a family with children...


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