Solar Impulse’s HB-SIA obtains two new world records

Solar Impulse’s first prototype airplane has been accorded two new world records in the category of experimental solar airplane by the Fédération Aéronautique International (FAI) during this year’s Crossing Frontiers mission flights which connected Europe ...

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Solar Impulse’s first prototype airplane has been accorded two new world records in the category of experimental solar airplane by the Fédération Aéronautique International (FAI) during this year’s Crossing Frontiers mission flights which connected Europe to North Africa.

The records (subclass: solar-powered aeroplane) both concern the first leg of the mission, from Payerne (Switzerland) to Madrid (Spain). The first record was obtained in the category of “Free Distance along a Course” - a distance from point A to point B without a predefined itinerary. The second record has a stricter objective: “Straight Distance, Pre-Declared Waypoints” - where waypoints overflown en route on the way from Payerne to Madrid need to be pre-announced before takeoff.

Two observers were called from the Swiss Aero Club located in Lucerne during the flight from Payerne to Madrid to document the record attempt. One observer joined the Mission Control Center (MCC) to follow the flight progress and to confirm that Solar Impulse remained airborne at all times. The second observer was embedded in the ground crew and awaited the aircraft in Madrid to verify the battery status after landing.

Once HB-SIA was safely on the ground at Madrid-Barajas airport, air traffic controllers of the towers in Payerne and Madrid had to sign official take-off and landing documents. Together with data from two GPS loggers in the aircraft and a number of additional information to support the record attempt, the information was forwarded to the Swiss Aero Club for homologation. Once the two Swiss national records were granted to André, the results were thereafter forwarded and confirmed by FAI as “Experimental and New Technology World Records: Solar-Powered Aeroplanes”.

After setting three world records during the Solar Night Flight on 8.7.2010 for maximum altitude (9235m), duration (26h10m19s) and gain of height (8744m), Solar Impulse now officially holds five world records.

Highlights of Solar Impulse’s Crossing Frontiers

After a successful conclusion to the world’s first roundtrip fully solar-powered intercontinental flight, here are the major highlights of what has been achieved:

MAY 2012

1.       24 May: Payerne ...

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After a successful conclusion to the world’s first roundtrip fully solar-powered intercontinental flight, here are the major highlights of what has been achieved:

MAY 2012

1.       24 May: Payerne to Madrid

  • Pilot: André Borschberg
  • Departure: 06:24 AM (UTC)
  • Landing: 11:28 PM (UTC) at Madrid-Barajas International airport (Spain).
  • Highlights:
    • Three world records currently being verified by the Air Sports Federation (FAI) for this flight.

JUNE 2012

2.       5 June: Madrid to Rabat

  • Pilot: Bertrand Piccard
  • Departure: 3:30 AM (UTC)
  • Landing: 10:30 PM (UTC) at Rabat-Salé International Airport (Morocco).
  • Highlights:
    • World’s first solar-powered intercontinental flight linking Europe to Africa.
    • Bertrand’s first Solar Impulse mission flight.

 3.       13 June: 1st Attempt Rabat to Ouarzazate

  • Pilot: André Borschberg
  • Departure: 07:07 AM (UTC)
  • Landing: HB-SIA returned to Rabat landing at 11:14 PM (UTC)
  • Highlights:  
    • André undertook a reconnaissance mission to a local meteorological station prior to the flight to benefit from local knowledge complementing Solar Impulse’s sophisticated modeling programs.
    • The winds were twice as strong as expected, keeping the solar aircraft at a standstill. For the safety of the aircraft and pilot, the Flight Director decided to turn back.

 4.       21 June: 2nd Attempt Rabat to Ouarzazate

  • Pilot: André Borschberg
  • Departure: 06:05 AM (UTC)
  • Landing: 11:25 PM (UTC) at Ouarzazate International airport (Morocco).
  • Highlights:
    • Symbolic destination to inaugurate the beginning of construction of what will the world’s largest thermo-solar power plant.
    • The aircraft was facing away from the sun most of the flight and André was shivering and very cold during a large portion of the leg.

 5.       29 June: Ouarzazate to Rabat

  • Pilot: André Borschberg
  • Departure: 6:33 AM (UTC)
  • Landing: 09:22 PM (UTC) at Rabat-Salé international airport (Morocco).
  • Highlights:
    • Strong westerly winds over the Atlas Mountains made finding a flight plan challenging.
    • In Rabat, HB-SIA underwent the usual technical check-up scheduled after a total of 50 hours of flight.

JULY 2012

6.       6 July: Rabat to Madrid

  • Pilot: Bertrand Piccard
  • Departure: 5:17 AM (UTC)
  • Landing: 11:19 PM (UTC) at Madrid-Barajas International airport (Morocco).
  • Highlights:
    • Bertrand not only had a guest in the cockpit (a Moroccan fly) but also completed the Solar Impulse speed record both forwards and backwards.

7.       17 July: Madrid to Toulouse

  • Pilot: Bertrand Piccard
  • Departure: 03:33 AM (UTC)
  • Landing: 07:46 PM (UTC) at Toulouse-Francazal airport (France).
  • Highlights:
    • Originally meant to be a direct flight to Payerne the small window of opportunity quickly closed causing Bertrand to land in Toulouse.
    • Toulouse: Headquarters of the historical Aéropostale, the world’s first commercial flight route connecting France to North Africa.

8.       24 July: Toulouse to Payerne

  • Pilot: Bertrand Piccard
  • Departure: 05:01 AM (UTC)
  • Landing: 06:30 PM (UTC) at Payerne airfield (Switzerland)
  • Highlights:
    • Landing welcomed by a group of Swiss Alphorn musicians and cheering spectators.
    • World’s first roundtrip fully solar-powered intercontinental flight.
    • 6’000km flown
    • 8 legs
    • 4 countries
    • 2 continents
    • 3 FAI world records being verified.
    • Over 2’723’391 unique visitors to the Solar Impulse website.
    • Over 4’164’130 viewers of the LIVE broadcastings.

Night-Flight Gains 3 World Records

The completion of what was ruled-out as impossible by many was not only a great achievement for the Solar Impulse founders and team of engineers, but it’s living proof for the project’s skeptics that the HB-SIA can indeed fly powered only by solar energy, and for 26-hours nonetheless!

Piloted by André, HB-SIA ...

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The completion of what was ruled-out as impossible by many was not only a great achievement for the Solar Impulse founders and team of engineers, but it’s living proof for the project’s skeptics that the HB-SIA can indeed fly powered only by solar energy, and for 26-hours nonetheless!

Piloted by André, HB-SIA whooshed through the skies. From afar it looked like a giant bird advancing with extreme nonchalance but the reality was very different. From inside the cockpit, André was well aware of the physical strain of staying awake 24 hours. In addition to the challenges of managing the ultra-light aircraft through gusts of alpine winds, André’s water source froze at high altitude. The team on the ground was tense as they feared the worst: not completing the world’s first solar night flight. But to their delight, André landed at the Payerne airfield 26 hours 10 minutes later looking as fresh as can be. Aside from the 5 o’clock shadow he was in better shape than the rest of the team!

This historic moment on 8 July 2010 resulted in, not one, not two, but three world records for HB-SIA and its pilot! The prototype aircraft was awarded records (in “Solar-Powered Aeroplane” category) for “Gain of Height” (8744m), “Duration” (26h 10min 19s) and “Absolute Altitude” (9235m).

Congratulations to HB-SIA, André Borschberg and the entire Solar Impulse team for the wonderful achievement!