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21 - 23 February: virtual flight

On 21-23 February, Solar Impulse kicked off the 2012 season with a 72-hour virtual flight in Dübendorf (Switzerland). All of the teams, and in particular the Altran Engineers working on the project, were on constant standby throughout the three days, in order to best reproduce actual flying conditions. This simulation provided an opportunity to carry out the first tests for the round-the-world flight, the project's climax which is scheduled for 2015.

The main goals of the flight were largely linked to the human aspects of the project. The pilot, André Borschberg (CEO and Co-Founder of Solar Impulse), had to undertake three days of non-stop flying, which is the standard time for a round-the-world trip stage, in a very restricted space. The virtual flight allowed the pilot's interactions to be assessed in the current cockpit configuration. Any issues in terms of managing fatigue and nutrition were also studied.

It also provided the opportunity to gain experience in using the "MISSIM" mission simulator*, to be used in future training plans and flight simulations. Christophe Béesau, Simulation Team Leader, and Stéphane Yong are both Altran Consultants. Since the project was launched in 2003, they have been working on the development and improvement of the mission simulator. 

They were on hand for the 72 hours of the flight, to provide the rest of the team with the best possible flight direction information. Sandra Oberhollenzer, Altran Project Manager at Solar Impulse, was also on site. All three let us share the experience as part of the team by sending regular updates throughout the virtual flight, including photos, first impressions and anecdotes on the Altran group's Twitter feed (@Altran).

* The mission simulator is a routing tool which is used to define the best trajectory for the plane to follow based mainly on the weather and air traffic control. It is located at the MCC (Mission Control Center). It differs from the flight simulator, which essentially replicates a cockpit and allows the various issues relating to piloting to be tested.