Pilot Andre Borschberg was forced to fly the Solar Impulse back to Rabat when turbulence made it impossible to cross the Atlas Mountains in southern Morocco on June 14, 2012. But yesterday’s second attempt was finally successful, and the team was welcomed in Ouarzazate by a jubilant crowd. The 683 km journey was completed in 17 hours and 20 minutes at an average altitude of 16, 405 feet.
Despite its long wing span, the world’s first sun-powered plane capable of flying day and night weighs the same as a family car, which prohibits it from entering areas that experience high winds and other climatic extremes. Borschberg told the Associated Press while flying near Casablanca that the Solar Impulse will never replace fuel-powered commercial planes, but instead is designed to showcase what is possible with solar energy.
Thrilled to have conquered the Atlas Mountains, the Solar Impulse crew danced with traditional artisans who welcomed them at the Ouarzazate International airport last night at 23:25
“Aside from the joy of the team, it was an extremely challenging flight, one of the most difficult feats the HB-SIA has ever had to face,” according to a press release.
“Because of the hot and arid climate in the region, the area is infested with strong winds, thermal currents and frequent thunderstorms,” they added.
But this kind of topography is a useful training tool both for the pilots and the Mission Control Center (MCC) who are now better equipped to handle future crises. Its successful landing last night is being attributed to the MCC’s sophisticated modeling programs, support from Ouarzazate meteorologists, and the pilots skills.
“Striving for the impossible is the DNA of our team,” said Bertrand Piccard, Initiator, Pilot and Chairman of Solar Impulse referring to the extreme challenge of reaching this difficult destination.
“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 André Borschberg to the cheering of the Solar Impulse team, President of the Commune, the Governor of Ouarzazate, Representative of local Authorities and local journalists.
“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.”
The Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (Masen) will now commence a tour of the site of Morocco’s first solar-thermal power plant.
“We are glad André, Bertrand and the overall team could make this dream come true,” said Masen’s President Mustapha Bakkoury. “We believed in their capacity to do so and are very proud to warmly welcome them in Ouarzazate where every single person was awaiting us.”
More on the Solar Impulse Journey: