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6 July: Rabat-Madrid

Return intercontinental flight

The month spent in Morocco, under the regal patronage of His Majesty King Mohammed VI and at the invitation of the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN), included numerous meetings and discussions concerning the potential of solar energy. The weeks passed very quickly and July arrived in no time at all: it was high time for HB-SIA to go home.

And so at dawn on 6 July - at 6.17 a.m. precisely (UTC+1) - the plane left African soil and set course for Madrid. During the 17-hour flight, Bertrand Piccard crossed the skies above Tangiers, Seville and Toledo.

In the mission control centre were two Altran experts , Christophe Béesau and Stéphane Yong. The routing system they designed was a key factor of success during this most difficult of flights. This amazing complex calculation tool called Platoo (Planification Tool) determines in real time the best courses to take in light of the wind, cloud cover, solar radiation, energy management, relief, air traffic control and other considerations.

This difficult stage from Rabat to Madrid, marked by high side winds blowing over the Iberian peninsula, was at the heart of the adventure 2012. With the wind speed exceeding that of the plane, the Solar/Altran team showed great skill in setting a bold course.

Difficult but amazing! Thank you Altran (…). For me, it was a pleasure cruise (…) So who was it difficult for? For the preparation team who did a spectacular job in finding a feasible course despite the very strong high-altitude winds, taking the plane a long way north before letting it drift in reverse back towards Madrid. When I talk about preparing the mission, they haven't just been working on it since the day before yesterday but for the past few years! (…) Thank you guys! You brought me home safe and sound and happy to boot!
Bertrand Piccard

The prototype thus beat two speed successive records – the first for the maximum speed of 157 km/h and the second for a minimum of 18 km/h (going backwards!) – before landing without incident at Madrid-Barajas airport at 11.19 p.m. (UTC) on 6 July.