Solar Impulse's Bertrand Piccard Completes 72-Hour Simulation Flight
December 21, 2013

Solar Impulse’s Bertrand Piccard Completes 72-Hour Simulation Flight

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

Bertrand Piccard has successfully completed a mock 72-hour flight in the HB-SIB cockpit replica in preparations for the upcoming Solar Impulse World Tour, set to take off in 2015.

The 72-hour flight simulation began on Tuesday Dec 17 at precisely 08:00 (1am EST) and ended Dec 20 at the same time. Piccard joins his comrade Andre Borschberg in completion of a test that will prepare the team, both mentally and physically, for the challenges of flying across the Atlantic non-stop in a cramped cockpit.

Piccard had met the challenges head on both he and Borschberg will face when they take flight in 2015. These challenges include fatigue, cockpit ergonomics, nutrition, toilet use, exercise, vigilance and the ability to pilot the aircraft nearly continuously without sleep.

"This experiment provided vital training for the round the world flight, while at the same time highlighting the extreme difficulty of this venture." explained Bertrand Piccard, Initiator, Chairman and Pilot of Solar Impulse. Exiting the simulator with a smile he added, "Seeing so many doctors around the Solar Impulse reminded me of my first profession, although this time round I was the patient."

Piccard employed the use of self-hypnosis during the simulation to stay focused and manage fatigue and sleep. He was monitored by two hypnotherapist colleagues, who helped to answer questions from the public via social networks. During the 72-hour flight, Piccard rested 35 times for a period of 20 minutes each on a specially-designed seat, developed by Swiss company Lantal, which is the industry leader in aircraft seats.

“The team is on the point of finalizing the second aircraft which will have a theoretically infinite range. Now the challenge is to make the pilot as ‘enduring’ as the aircraft! We must learn to manage our own energy, to be able to recognize the point at which fatigue is gaining the upper hand and find solutions to remain alert and vigilant,” explained Borschberg, cofounder, CEO and pilot of Solar Impulse.

Also, Nestle Health Science will provide a personalized dietary strategy to help the Solar Impulse team stay nourished during their 2015 journey. The nutritiously prepared foods, which have also been proven tasteful, were tested by Piccard during his three-day mock flight.

With the 72-hour simulation challenge now behind Piccard and Borschberg, the team will focus on the final phase of preparations for the 2015 World Tour. Still more than 18 months away, the Solar Impulse team still have a flurry of activity to plow through.

The HB-SIB prototype is scheduled to roll off the assembly line in February 2014. The plane is scheduled to be officially presented in April 2014, followed by test flights and training in the team’s base of operations in Payerne, Switzerland. If everything falls into place, the team will be ready for their zero-fuel, solar-powered world flight in March 2015.