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MAJOR STEPS

As was the case for all the great “firsts” in history, doubts and question marks have been accepted from the outset, and transformed into creativity and innovative solutions.

 

Bertrand Piccard’s vision, coupled with André Borschberg’s managerial experience and the skills of a multi-disciplinary team have enabled an idea to be transformed into reality that no aviation specialists, apart from Dassault, believed in: “Too big, too light and impossible to control in flight”, they all said.

Major Steps

1999    Solar Impulse descends directly from a long tradition of exploration, adventure and scientific development. By launching this challenge soon after landing from his round-the-world balloon flight, Bertrand Piccard is continuing his family’s adventure, following on from the exploration of the stratosphere and the ocean depths. For him, an adventure such as this must serve to motivate society to tackle today’s challenges by using clean technologies. The immediate resonance that the Solar Impulse message found in business and political circles seems to justify this vision.

 

2003   Bertrand presented the project to the Ecole Polytechnique de Lausanne (EPFL), which immediately agreed to launch a feasibility study. Leadership of this study was entrusted to André Borschberg, engineer and professional pilot. A friendship developed between the two men, who decided to work together.


Announcement of project launch on 28 November . That very evening, computer generated images of the solar airplane were shown repeatedly on CNN.

2004-2006      Signature of the first partnership agreements (Semper, Altran, Solvay) allowed engineers to be hired and concept development to start.

Unveiling HB-SIA
Signature of Partnership with Omega
Signature of Partnership with Deutsche Bank
Press Conference in Dübendorf
Unveiling
Unveiling

2007-2009      The team was assembled. New main sponsors (Omega and Deutsche Bank) allowed the design to be refined and manufacture of the prototype HB-SIA launched.

The aircraft was unveiled on 26 June 2009 in front of 800 guests.

First Test Flight
Solar Night Flight
Solar Night Flight
Solar Night Flight
Solar Night Flight
Flight to Zürich
Flight to Geneva

2010    Professional test pilot Markus Scherdel began the first test flights, to examine the airplane’s flight envelope and certify it for night flight. On 7 July, HB-SIA, with André Borschberg at the commands, made the first night flight in the history of solar aviation, lasting in total 26 hours, 10 minutes and 19 seconds.

During this flight 3 world records were established: maximum altitude (9’235 meters), maximum duration (26h10m19s) and gain in altitude (8’744 meters).

Bayer MaterialScience became an official partner.

In September, the aircraft flew across Switzerland, landing at the international airports of Geneva and Zurich.

Flight to Paris Le Bourget
Flight to Brussels
Display Flight in Paris Le Bourget
Schindler becoming the 4th Main Partner

2011    Schindler became the fourth Main Partner

Under the patronage of the European Communities, Solar Impulse HB-SIA flies to Brussels and then to Paris-Le Bourget, where it featured as “guest of honor”.

In parallel, the Design team develops the blueprint of Solar Impulse’s future airplane, HB-SIB.

The Strait of Gibraltar from the cockpit
Successful landing in Ouarzazate
Crowd of Moroccans Journalists
Above the desert
Triumphal landing in Payerne

2012    Destination Morocco: Mission to fly across the Mediterranean upon invitation of King Mohammed VI to promote the construction of the world’s largest thermo-solar power plant in Ouarzazate. This journey took place in 7 legs: Payerne-Madrid-Rabat-Ouarzazate-Rabat-Madrid-Toulouse-Payerne. During the first leg, 2 new world records were established: free distance and distance with waypoints.

SwissRe becomes Solar Impulse’s official insurer.

2013    Destination USA: The Across America mission led the solar airplane to fly coast-to-coast, from West to East, demonstrating the practical use of clean and renewable technologies. Solar Impulse flew San Francisco-Phoenix-Dallas-St. Louis-Washington D.C.- New York City.  

Construction of HB-SIB, the second solar airplane, continues as planned and is scheduled to be fully built by the end of 2013.

2014   In April, ABB joins as Main Partner of Solar Impulse, and Solar Impulse 2 is presented to the public. The start of flight testing and training flights with Solar Impulse 2 is planned for the summer.

2015    Attempt to circumnavigate the globe in the northern hemisphere, with 4-5 stopovers along the way. The starting point will be selected from among several candidate cities.

Virtual reality training

Since spring 2005, virtual flights in real weather conditions have been carried out almost every year.

These virtual flights have served to evaluate the aircraft's ability to string together a sequence of day/night flights. To do this generally means following a tortuous flight path to avoid areas of cloud on track.

In 2008, Bertrand and André each spent 25 hours in the HB-SIA flight simulator.

In February 2012, André succeeded in staying in the HB-SIB simulator for 72 hours, under the supervision of a team of doctors and nutritionists. In December 2013, Bertrand achieved the same #72hSim Transatlantic Fight Simulation.


“The pioneer is not always the one who succeeds, but rather the one who is not scared of failing.” Bertrand Piccard

It was a personal dream to have ABB joining our family of partners, as we have exactly the same goal of improving the world by reaching more energy efficiency and saving natural resources of our planet.

Whilst Solar Impulse wants to motivate people to use clean technologies, ABB produces them to bring them on the market. This illustrates how realistic the message of Solar Impulse is. ABB makes it possible for everyone to use electrical power as efficiently as on our solar airplane, and to enable renewable energy and ...

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Whilst Solar Impulse wants to motivate people to use clean technologies, ABB produces them to bring them on the market. This illustrates how realistic the message of Solar Impulse is. ABB makes it possible for everyone to use electrical power as efficiently as on our solar airplane, and to enable renewable energy and sustainable transport.

With his background of engineer, André is elated as well. ABB is an ideal partner with its long history and rich heritage of technology innovation and this is exactly what also drives us. During the Official Presentation of Solar Impulse 2, on April 9, ABB will be joining the panel discussion around the topic “Meeting the Technological Challenges”.

By the way, have you noticed our new motto “Exploration to Change the World”? It fits so well with our new partnership.

Bertrand Piccard, Stefan Catsicas (EPFL Research Director, 2003)

Solar Impulse is 10 years old –
but since when?

Since I first had the idea following my round-the-world balloon trip in 1999? Since I met Paul McCready, the pioneer of solar flight, for the first time ? Or since the EPFL agreed to launch a feasibility study? 

Since the collaboration with André Borschberg?  The signature of the first ...

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Since I first had the idea following my round-the-world balloon trip in 1999? Since I met Paul McCready, the pioneer of solar flight, for the first time ? Or since the EPFL agreed to launch a feasibility study? 

Since the collaboration with André Borschberg?  The signature of the first partner, which enabled us to get the company off the ground? The first flight?

It’s certainly a little of all of that, but nevertheless it is the 28th of November 2003 that I would like to celebrate with you, who have followed us for so long.

That was the point of no return, the date this absolutely mad dream of going round the world in a solar aeroplane was first announced to the media. That day, André and I burned the bridges that would have still allowed us to abandon the idea, to give up. But once we had made the public announcement, we were condemned to go all the way.

It seems such a long time ago, given that Solar Impulse has accomplished so many firsts in these 10 years: the night flight, the intercontinental flight, the crossing of the USA.

Nevertheless, it was the 28th of November 2003 that was to change our lives, and those of our families, for ever.

On that day, André and I still wore a tie. We had to give that up later, in view of the risk that it would get caught up in the propellors of our aircraft…

Bertrand Piccard

André Borschberg, EPFL 2003

Bertrand Piccard, EPFL 2003

1st picture (left to right): Bertrand Piccard and Stefan Catsicas, EPFL Research Director, November 28th, 2003.

2nd picture (left to right): Bertrand Piccard, Stefan Catsicas, André Borschberg, Jan-Anders Manson, November 28th, 2003.

3rd picture: Bertrand Piccard, announcement of the round-the-world solar flight, November 28th, 2003.

What happened in 2013? Across America

This year marked the completion a truly historic feat: the crossing of the United States, coast-to-coast from San Francisco to New York City. The challenge was done in five stopovers allowing pilots and Co- Founders, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg to promote clean technologies and innovation to many different ...

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This year marked the completion a truly historic feat: the crossing of the United States, coast-to-coast from San Francisco to New York City. The challenge was done in five stopovers allowing pilots and Co- Founders, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg to promote clean technologies and innovation to many different audiences. Key political, business and opinion leaders, partner and educational events as well as public days allowing were held giving the chance to share Solar Impulse’s message of pioneering spirit and the need to invest in a cleaner future.

January

January 16: Official announcement of the 2013 Across America mission.

January 23: Solar Impulse engineers begin disassembling HB-SIA.

February

February 13: Swiss Confederation reinforces its support of Solar Impulse by offering use of hangars in Dübendorf and Payerne (Switzerland) and becoming the fifth US mission partner, joining Solvay, Bayer MaterialScience, Swiss Re Corporate Solutions and SunPower.

Beginning February: HB-SIA, Solar Impulse’s first generation airplane, is fully disassembled in preparation for the 2013 Across America mission.

February 21: The solar airplane takes off from Payerne (Switzerland) in a Boeing 747 Freight on its way to San Francisco.

March

March 28: Across America mission itinerary unveiled to the public.

March 28: HB-SIA is fully reassembled at Moffett Airfield at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View (CA).

April

April 2: First technical flight on US soil. Technical flights are designed to check the solar airplane’s maneuverability and responsiveness. Pilot: Markus Scherdel.

April 18: André and Bertrand meet Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, Google’s CEO Larry Page, PayPal’s President David Marcus and eBay’s CEO, John Donahoe.

April 20: Bertrand completes his first technical flight in the US.

April 21: André completes his first technical flight in the US.

April 24: Solar airplane flies over the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges in San Francisco. Pilot Chesley B. Sullenberger III (a.k.a. “Sully”) was present during take-off. Pilot: Bertrand Piccard. Watch the video here.

May

May 1: Final itinerary revealed: San Francisco-Phoenix-Dallas-St. Louis-Washington D.C. - New York City

May 3: Take-off from Moffett Airfield towards Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (AZ). Pilot: Bertrand Piccard.

May 3: HB-SIB's Iron Bird proceeding on schedule – testing the electric wiring and overall electronics in a mock cockpit for the second airplane – as well as structural testing of other parts.

May 4: Landing at Phoenix Sky Harbor. First leg of the Across America completed. Watch the video here.

May 8: Sir Richard Branson, Founder and Chairman of Virgin group becomes Solar Impulse’s new Patron.

May 10: End of first week of events with visits of Governor of Arizona, Mrs. Jan Brewer, Honorary Consul of Switzerland, Alisa Jost, Secretary of the State of Arizona, Ken Bennett and the Chairman of the Consular Corps of Arizona, Michael Chan.

May 15: HB-SIB's new wing spar delivered in Dübendorf (Switzerland).

May 22: Take-off from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport towards Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. Pilot: André Borschberg.

May 23: Landing at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (TX). This was the longest flight in the history of the project as well as an FAI world distance record in the solar aviation category. Watch the video here.

June

June 3: Take-off from Dallas Fort Worth International Airport towards Lambert-St. Louis International Airport (MO). Pilot: Bertrand Piccard.

June 4: Landing at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. This was Bertrand Piccard’s longest flight and also the first time that Solar Impulse’s mobile hangar - an inflatable structure meant to protect the solar aircraft when nothing else is available – was used. Watch the video here.

June 11: HB-SIB's cockpit fairing test in a wind tunnel to see the ability to jettison the cockpit’s door during an emergency situation and to see the overall behavior of the structure with different winds.

June 14: Take-off from Lambert-St. Louis towards Washington Dulles International Airport. Pilot: André Borschberg. Due to the difficult weather conditions, a pit stop in Cincinnati (OH) was scheduled.

June 14: Landing at Cincinnati Municipal Lunken Airport (OH) for an 11-hour pit stop before proceeding to the final destination: Washington D.C. Watch the video here.

June 15: Take-off from Cincinnati Municipal Lunken Airport towards Washington Dulles International Airport. Pilot: Bertrand Piccard.

June 16: Landing at Washington Dulles International Airport. Watch the video here.

June 17: Visit and speech by the US Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz, during the press conference.

June 20: André and Bertrand visit the US Capitol in the presence of Representatives of Illinois, Randy Hultgren, of Arizona, David Schweikert and of Missouri, Sam Graves.

June 22: André and Bertrand visit the White House upon invitation by Dr. John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

June 22: André and Bertrand receive the distinctive and symbolic Spirit Award of the Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation.

July

July 2: HB-SIB landing gear test in Dübendorf (Switzerland).

July 6: Take-off from Washington Dulles to New York John F. Kennedy International Airport. Pilot: André Borschberg.

July 7: Early landing at New York JFK due to a tear in the fabric on the underside of HB-SIA's left wing. André Borschberg skillfully landed the plane bringing both himself and the solar plane safely on the ground.

July 9: André and Bertrand invited to ring the NASDAQ opening bell.

July 9: André and Bertrand invited by UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, to the UN’s Economic and Social Council.

August

August 5: HB-SIA, the solar airplane that completed the epic crossing across America, was repatriated in the belly of a Boeing 747-8 (aka Jumbo Jet) powered by Cargolux. This marks the end of the 2013 Across America mission. 

2012: World’s first solar-powered intercontinental flight

A thrilling year for Solar Impulse starting with a simulation of a 72-hour flight and culminating in the decoration of André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard by King Mohammed VI after completing world’s first fully solar-powered intercontinental flight. While HB-SIA, piloted alternately by André Borschberg and Bertrand ...

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A thrilling year for Solar Impulse starting with a simulation of a 72-hour flight and culminating in the decoration of André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard by King Mohammed VI after completing world’s first fully solar-powered intercontinental flight. While HB-SIA, piloted alternately by André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, made its way this summer from Payerne (Switzerland) to Ouarzazate (Morocco) with intermediate stops in Madrid (Spain) and Rabat (Morocco), Solar Impulse’s team of engineers continued the construction of HB-SIB, Solar Impulse’s second generation aircraft.

February

  • February 24: Successful simulation of a 72-hour flight (3 days and 3 nights).

May

  • May 7: Bertrand Piccard’s last test flight before the 2012 Crossing Frontiers Mission flights.
  • May 11: Launching of Solar Impulse’s new website.
  • May 21: Structural testing of HB-SIB’s gondola in Dübendorf.
  • May 25: First leg of Solar Impulse’s first intercontinental flight begins. HB-SIA lands successfully in Madrid.

June

  • June 6: Solar Impulse completes its first intercontinental flight and lands in Rabat, on Moroccan soil.
  • June 13: HB-SIA takes off for first attempt to reach Ouarzazate, the doorstep to the Moroccan desert.
  • June 22: Solar Impulse triumphantly lands in Ouarzazate to the beat of traditional Berber music happily concluding its 2nd attempt to reach its destination in Southern Morocco.
  • June 28: HB-SIA returns to Rabat after a week of events in Ouarzazate, and begins its return home.

July

  • July 5: Wing spar of HB-SIB cracks and the final structural test fails.
  • July 7: Solar Impulse lands in Madrid.
  • July 17: HB-SIA lands in Toulouse-Francazal airport.
  • July 24: The Solar Impulse team concludes the world’s first roundtrip, fully solar-powered intercontinental flight by landing safely at its home base in Payerne, Switzerland. The 2012 Crossing Frontiers mission flights conclude to the sounds of Switzerland’s traditional Alphorn music.

August

  • August 30: André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard receive a decoration by King Mohammed VI for their courage and efforts to promote the Moroccan solar program with their flight to Rabat and Ouarzazate.

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