Second Time’s A Charm: Solar Impulse Touches Down In Ouarzazate
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com
About a week after the Solar Impulse team had to surrender its flight from Rabat-Sale International Airport in Rabat to Ouarzazate, Morocco due to high winds and unbearable turbulence, pilot Andre Borschberg successfully guided the solar-powered aircraft to touchdown in Morocco’s southern region after a 17-hour-plus flight.
Landing in Ouarzazate at 12:25 a.m. (local time) on June 22, Borschberg has completed the Solar Impulse’s most difficult journey yet. The hot and arid desert climate around the Atlas Mountains produced unbearable flight conditions during the first attempt, forcing the pilot to turn around mid-flight and head back to Rabat.
During the second attempt, Borschberg left at 7:05 a.m. (local time) on June 21 and flew in the direction of Casablanca, then turned inland toward Marrakesh, avoiding the Atlas Mountains altogether. The flight lasted 17 hours and 20 minutes and covered nearly 425 miles.
“It was a beautiful flight with some amazing contrasts between the coast and interior landscapes, but the highlight was the view of the Atlas Mountains: breathtaking!” said Borschberg after the successful landing, stepping out of his plane to a cheering crowd that included the Solar Impulse team, local journalists, the Governor of Ouarzazate and the Mayor of Marrakesh.
“It still remains one of the most difficult flights we’ve done and it wasn’t easy to find the adequate altitude to avoid turbulence, to charge the batteries and to avoid being too cold. But Ouarzazate was our final destination and we made it! It is a great satisfaction to finally be here for our project and our host,” said Borschberg.
The atmospheric conditions in the region are often treacherous and could have proven disastrous to an aircraft such as the Solar Impulse (HB-SIA). But thanks to sophisticated modeling programs of the Solar Impulse mission control center, along with support from local meteorologists and Borschberg’s expert piloting skills, the second attempt went smoothly and successfully.
“Striving for the impossible is the DNA of our team,” Bertrand Piccard, Initiator and Chairman of the Solar Impulse project, told reporters, referring to the extreme challenge of reaching this difficult destination.
“We are glad Andre, Bertrand and the overall team could make this dream come true. We believed in their capacity to do so and are very proud to warmly welcome them in Ouarzazate,” said MASEN’s President Mustapha Bakkoury.
The goal to fly to Ouarzazate was symbolic. It is there that the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN) is currently building one of the world’s largest thermo-solar power plants aimed at creating a minimum power capacity of 500 megawatts by 2015 and 2,000 megawatts by 2020. It is an integral part of Morocco’s energy plan, as it looks to increase renewable resources to 42 percent of the country’s total energy production within 10 years.
Solar Impulse supports the Kingdom’s strategy, as its goals are as ambitious as MASEN’s. HB-SIA is the world’s first airplane to fly both day and night solely operated by the sun’s energy. The aircraft, which produces no carbon emissions, demonstrates the enormous potential held by new technologies in terms of energy savings and renewable energy production.
The Solar Impulse project is supported by Solvay, Omega, Deutsche Bank and Schindler as Principal Partners; Bayer Material Science and Altran as Official Partners; EPFL (Lausanne Federal Institute of Technology) as Official Scientific Consultant and Dassault-Aviation as Aviation Consultant.
Follow the timeline of events:
- Solar Impulse Re-Scheduled For June 21 Liftoff To Ouarzazate (June 20, 2012)
- Solar Impulse Does 180, Returns To Rabat (June 14, 2012)
- Solar Impulse Continues Journey Through Morocco (June 12, 2012)
- Solar Impulse Lands In Rabat (June 6, 2012)