More than just a new record

While the Across America mission is well behind us and we are working on finishing the second prototype airplane HB SIB and preparing for the 2015 Around-the-World flights, there are still a few successes coming out of our American adventure.

Today the FAI (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale / International ...

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While the Across America mission is well behind us and we are working on finishing the second prototype airplane HB SIB and preparing for the 2015 Around-the-World flights, there are still a few successes coming out of our American adventure.

Today the FAI (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale / International Aviation Federation) ratified 3 new records for Solar Impulse. André’s flight from Phoenix to Dallas on May 23 2013 will go down in aviation history books for longest solar powered straight distance (1386.5 km), distance along a course, pre-declared waypoints (1487.6km) and free distance (1506.5km) flight.

Solar Impulse now holds a total of 8 FAI records in the category of solar aviation.

Just as important as achieving a "first ever", this particular flight was perhaps one of the hardest flights Solar Impulse has flown to date. You may recall that strong headwinds made it exceptionally challenging for the Pilot. André spent the day riding the updraft and downdraft of the mountain winds. The landing itself was an aeronautical feat as André literally had to “crab crawl” Solar Impulse sideways to position the airplane for landing.

I have witnessed practically every take off and landing of Solar Impulse but this one still brings shivers down my spine as I recall the final approach. Clutching Bertrand like a nervous wreck, we were in watching in awe as André skillfully maneuvered the airplane. As soon as the wheels hit the ground at Dallas Fort Worth airport, Bertrand and I were running down the runway, with tears flowing from our eyes, to meet André. Someone else now deserved our hugs!

This is certainly a record of merit, not only because of the distance flown but because it was the flight that pushed our limits once again to new levels and showed the professionalism and competence of the entire team and the technological resilience of our first prototype.  

Across America to promote clean technologies

The journey across America, that led Solar Impulse from San Francisco to New York City, has successfully come to an end concluding a new chapter in aviation history. The world’s first solar airplane able to fly day and night powered solely by the sun has flown San Francisco (CA) – Phoenix (AZ) – Dallas (TX) – ...

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The journey across America, that led Solar Impulse from San Francisco to New York City, has successfully come to an end concluding a new chapter in aviation history. The world’s first solar airplane able to fly day and night powered solely by the sun has flown San Francisco (CA) – Phoenix (AZ) – Dallas (TX) – St. Louis (MO) – Cincinnati (OH) – Washington D.C. (District of Columbia) – New York City over a period of two months.

Numerous events were organized along the way including visits of key political, business and opinion leaders, partner and educational events as well as public days allowing project Co-Founders Bertrand and André to promote the adoption of clean technologies and prove what can be done with renewable energies.  

The solar airplane arrived in New York in time for the pre-scheduled week of events despite numerous challenges faced along the way. Difficult weather conditions, particularly strong winds, made the landing in Dallas difficult while a violent storm destroyed the roof of the hanger in St. Louis, forcing the team to operate its inflatable mobile structure for the first time during a mission. Finally, during the flight to New York, an 8 ft. / 2.5m tear on the fabric on the underside of the left wing, that could have jeopardized the final leg, forced the plane to land earlier than planned.

The challenges and obstacles along the way not only show the team’s resourcefulness and flexibility but was also the perfect school for what lies ahead for the circumnavigation of the globe, scheduled for 2015.

Fun Facts:

  • World distance record in the solar aviation category of the FAI (936 miles / 1506 km), flight Phoenix to Dallas
  • 3’511 miles/ 5’650 km flown across the United States
  • 105h 41min of flight time
  • 75’000 people visiting the plane and/or meeting the pilots
  • 50 promotional and educational events organized
  • 5 million people following the flight live
  • 50 million hits on the website
  • 19 million page views on the website
  • 8.1 billion media impressions

Mission at a glance:

  • 3-4 May 2013: First leg San Francisco/Moffett Airfield – Phoenix/Sky Harbor
  • 22-23 May 2013: Second leg Phoenix/Sky Harbor – Dallas/Fort Worth
  • 3-4 June 2013: Third leg Dallas/Fort Worth – St. Louis/Lambert Airport
  • 14-15 June 2013: Fourth leg St. Louis/Lambert Airport – Washington DC/Dulles via Cincinnati
  • 6 July 2013: Fifth and last leg Washington DC/Dulles – New York/JFK

 

Photo: Faron Collins (photographer). View: Pit stop flight from St. Louis to Cincinnati. Pilot: André Borschberg

Insurance for progress

Swiss Re Corporate Solutions, a Solar Impulse Official Partner and sole insurance provider, organized a wonderful lunch event at Hangar 19 today, July 15th.

Opening remarks were given by Rudolf Flunger, Head of Regions & Specialty: “Development of new clean technologies would be seriously compromised ...

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Swiss Re Corporate Solutions, a Solar Impulse Official Partner and sole insurance provider, organized a wonderful lunch event at Hangar 19 today, July 15th.

Opening remarks were given by Rudolf Flunger, Head of Regions & Specialty: “Development of new clean technologies would be seriously compromised without insurance as it plays a key role in enabling the risk-taking necessary for progress. Swiss Re Corporate Solutions’ core business is to work with clients, like Solar Impulse, helping them to manage complex and challenging risks.”

“So many people are prisoners of old patterns of thinking, using old solutions for new challenges. Swiss Re Corporate Solutions is proving its pioneering spirit by providing full coverage to Solar Impulse – a prototype experimental solar aircraft project. It took them 24 hours to accept the partnership and no more than 2 months to sign the contract,” said Bertrand Piccard.

Bertrand even shared his Grandfather’s anecdote. Auguste Piccard who, in 1931 was ready to try the first ballooning trip to the stratosphere approached insurance companies to seek coverage for his project. They all thought it was suicidal. However, once he succeeded, they were the ones to go to him, only to be turned down. Auguste said he didn’t need them anymore because he now knew it was possible to fly to the stratosphere in a pressurized cabin.

“When we did the feasibility study 10 years ago, we had no money and no team but that was actually an advantage; it gave us the freedom and time to seek other solutions and engage people from different professional backgrounds. In fact, the people that were successful in our project were the people that could accept to think and work differently than they were taught, just like Swiss Re Corporate Solutions is proving how different it is than other insurance companies. It’s the perfect partnership,” concluded André Borschberg.

Innovation at the heart of Europe

On Saturday July 13th, the Swiss Consulate organized an event for employees, friend and families. Six hundred people were present, seated between the solar airplane and a gigantic Swiss flag. Founded by two Swiss citizens, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, Solar Impulse is an idea born in Switzerland.

“Seeing ...

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On Saturday July 13th, the Swiss Consulate organized an event for employees, friend and families. Six hundred people were present, seated between the solar airplane and a gigantic Swiss flag. Founded by two Swiss citizens, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, Solar Impulse is an idea born in Switzerland.

“Seeing the airplane land at JFK was a very emotional and historic moment. I can compare it to when the Wright brother flew over the Statue of Liberty and landed in New York,” said François Barras, Consul General of Switzerland in New York. “Switzerland, a country poor in resources, owes its survival to its ingenuity. Today, thanks to André and Bertrand, we can showcase Switzerland’s innovative spirit.” concluded François. Switzerland was ranked the world’s #1 most innovative country this year (Global Innovation Index 2013).

“One hundred and fifty years ago Switzerland was a poor country with no resources. Today it’s at the top of the ranks,” explained Bertrand. “What changed is the mindset. People had to look for new ways to communicate with the outside world by being inventive: building bridges and tunnels. Today, Solar Impulse shows that same shift in mindset, the perfect demonstration of what can be done when you’re not afraid to try”.

It’s not surprising that we chose to bring our Swiss airplane to the United States and complete the historic crossing coast-to-coast. Our journey started two months ago at the heart of Silicon Valley, in Mountain View (CA), - America’s innovation and technology hub - ending in the city of the Statue of Liberty, New York City. What better way to promote investment in scientific research and clean technologies than to fly a solar airplane born at the heart of the Swiss Alps from the Sierra Nevada over the Appalachians?

“Don’t believe that you’ll fly in solar airplanes in 5 years as we’re currently at the same point as the Wright Brothers in 1915. But it’s a step ahead and proof about what can be done,” said André as he described the beginning of the project back in 2003. “We made it to New York City despite the challenges and we can now say that the mission was a success. However, that’s not what will remain impressed in our minds; it’s the incredible welcome we’ve had across the country and the amazing capability people have to be excited about something. It was an extremely fulfilling experience,” concluded André as he thanked everybody, including JFK International airport for accepting Solar Impulse.

By completing this journey Across America, Swiss pilots and Solar Impulse Co-founders prove yet again Switzerland’s acute ability to reinvent itself and face the challenges of today’s society.

Inspiring future engineers

Bayer MaterialScience organized an event on Friday, July 12th presenting chemistry to an audience of disadvantaged school children from the Bronx. In its mission “Science for a Better Life”, the chemical giant and Solar Impulse partner is demonstrating how research and innovation in the chemical industry ...

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Bayer MaterialScience organized an event on Friday, July 12th presenting chemistry to an audience of disadvantaged school children from the Bronx. In its mission “Science for a Better Life”, the chemical giant and Solar Impulse partner is demonstrating how research and innovation in the chemical industry are key to finding sustainable solutions for the future.

The children had the chance to see this engineering marvel with their own eyes while listing to Bertrand and André’s speeches.

Patrick Thomas, CEO of Bayer MaterialScience, gave the opening remarks for the event “Solar Impulse captures the core values of our company in one magnificent package. It ties in perfectly with our philosophy of ‘Science For A Better Life,’ while also serving as a rigorous test of how our materials and technologies perform in challenging conditions.”

“The project is about pioneering spirit, about adventure, about thinking outside the box,” explained Bertrand to the young audience. “It’s not easy being a pioneer. To get where we are today, we had to fail many times. But every time you fail, you’re one step closer to succeeding.”

“In retrospect, it’s always nice to think about how we got here. The project is a lot about inspiration and a direct result of how we’ve been inspired by others before us. We hope this will encourage you to do great things for the future of our society,” concluded André to the applauding audience.  

The children were extremely curious about the project and the mission with many questions about the technical details of the airplane and the challenges faced during the coast-to-coast flight. But that wasn’t all. A little girl even asked “what inspired you to be part of the project?” followed by another one who wanted the pilots to give them advice for future engineers. 

Solvay celebrates its 150th anniversary

To celebrate their 150th anniversary and the conclusion of the Across America mission Solvay organized an Innovation symposium at JFK’s Hangar 19, on Friday July 12th 2013. Many people were present at the event including Jean-Pierre Clamadieu, Solvay CEO; Jacques van Rijckevorsel, member of the Executive ...

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To celebrate their 150th anniversary and the conclusion of the Across America mission Solvay organized an Innovation symposium at JFK’s Hangar 19, on Friday July 12th 2013. Many people were present at the event including Jean-Pierre Clamadieu, Solvay CEO; Jacques van Rijckevorsel, member of the Executive Committee who was involved in the decision-making process that brought Solvay to become Solar Impulse’s first partner back in 2004; Louis Neltner, General Manager Solvay Research and Innovation; family shareholders represented by Jean-Marie Solvay, member of the Board and Claude-Michel, Head of the Solvay Solar Impulse Partnership. All coming from Belgium, they were there to support their American colleagues, Jim Harton , Solvay North America General Manager, David Klucsik, Solvay North America Communication Director and Francine Palmer, Director of the Bristol Research laboratory.

“Solar Impulse is the perfect demonstration of how chemistry can make dreams come true and it’s a very good symbol of innovation and sustainability,” said Jean-Pierre Clamadieu before presenting George Rodriguez, Chairman of CM&E, the business and technology group of the American Chemical Society (ACS) New York Section.

Established in 1876, the American Chemical Society is the world’s largest chemical association with 160’000 members. Before giving the ACS award to André and Bertrand and Jean-Pierre, George expressed his fascination for the project and the large solar-powered bird. “Without engineering, mathematics, chemistry and physics there would be no Solar Impulse. But science is not enough; it’s the human factor that makes it happen: the courage, the passion, perseverance and risk-taking of these two pioneers,” concluded George as he called the pilots and co-founders of Solar Impulse on stage.

“From my ballooning days I learned something extremely useful: it’s useless to fight the wind, you just need to change altitude. To do so, you have to drop ballast. It’s the perfect metaphor for our daily lives: to free ourselves from fear of the unknown, common certitudes, dogmas. When we manage to that, we can think outside the box and become pioneers,” explained Bertrand.

As André took the lead, he said: “Solar Impulse is about thinking outside the box, about seeing things differently. Our team is made of people from different backgrounds, different nationalities and experiences – not necessarily people that know how to build a plane. Even our plane is different. When you land a commercial airplane, you need to slow down while when we land ours, we do the opposite: we accelerate.”

Solvay, like Solar Impulse, is all about innovative thinking and pioneering spirit. The chemical giant was the first company to believe in the solar-powered airplane in 2004, and since then provides technical solutions, proving its loyalty over the past ten years and demonstrating its capability to reinvent itself by remaining competitive for a century and a half.


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