After a week at Paris Air Show where Solar Impulse got media attention as “Special guest”, the plane headed to its air base in Payerne on the 3rd of July, Sunday. A beautiful flight that was a success to close the campaign of Europeans flights that leaded Solar Impulse team to Brussels and Paris.
05:30: The HB-SIA emerges from the dark with its batteries fully charged from its time in the sun on Friday morning.
07:11: André Borschberg, at the controls of the solar plane, takes off from Paris-Le Bourget Airport. The first challenge of the day will be to skirt Charles de Gaulle airport where traffic density may disturb the Solar Impulse.
The weather forecast is absolutely perfect with a light easterly up to 2,000 meters and a westerly above that which is so light it is negligible.
14:57: The HB-SIA flies over the Swiss border at La Brevine at 3,000 meters. He starts a gradual descent to 1,500 meters.
André Borschberg gives his feelings in live: "It’s a great feeling. I have been able to see the Mont Blanc for quite a while and then the rest of the Alps came into sight one by one, then at last the Jura mountain which I am flying over as we speak. It’s a beautiful moment, but also and most importantly a real achievement from the point of view of the project. "
Raymond Clerc, Mission Director based in Payerne explains why Solar Impulse has to wait 19:00 to land: “The plane is sensitive to thermal effects because of its large scale and its low weight. Hot air bubbles are forming above roads, railways, rooftops, but not grass, fields, rivers or lake. Thus, there are ascending and irregular air masses that can be little but intense; which could destabilize the plane.”
19:42: the plane silently and delicately touches the ground in a standing ovation from the public that was gathered next to the Solar Impulse hangar. The flight lasted 12 hours and 31 minutes. André Borschberg is bombarding by questions and he says “This flight is the climax of a fantastic campaign. I don’t think I have yet realized the scale of what we have achieved, although the number of people here illustrates the interest that Solar Impulse has raised.”
Of course, Bertrand Piccard is here to welcome his partner and celebrate the success of the European flights: “The plane is fantastic and the technical team has done an amazing job. Thanks to this we have been able to communicate our message and significantly raise the profile of our project.”
Christophe Béesau, Altran expert and head of Modeling & Simulation Team, gives us his point of view about 2011 campaign:
“Technically, the plane is close to perfection and the ground team that manages flight is ready. This success is partly the result of the excellent preparation made these past three years during virtual flights with Altran simulation team.
Solar Impulse has just ended its international flights for 2011; this is not the end of a round but the beginning of a new challenge, the one of future flights around the world. These new challenges will be taken up by HB-SIB that is already in construction.”