Saturday, August 19, 2017

Here comes the sun-powered plane


Solar Impulse 2, the solar-powered plane currently on its way around the world, has less than 12 hours to go before it lands in Myanmar – a stop-off with special significance for the aircraft's current pilot.

"For me, it's symbolic," pilot and innovator Dr Bertrand Piccard told The Myanmar Times from the plane's cockpit this morning. Dr Piccard has left Varanasi, India for Mandalay on the fourth leg of the aircraft's shot at circling the earth. 

Dr Piccard touched down in Myanmar 17 years ago on a failed attempt at floating around the world in a balloon. He said the country offered a warm welcome. 

"This time I'm coming with Solar Impulse," he continued, voicing his appreciation for the country, people, temples and spirituality of Myanmar.

Dr Piccard represents one half of the innovative duo behind Solar Impulse. He will trade off flying the aircraft with his pilot partner André Borschberg.

Though weather delays have set back the plane's schedule, the flight represents a feat of engineering and renewable energy development. Solar Impulse 2 weighs as much as a car and has wings bigger than those of a jumbo jet housing 17,000 solar cells, according to its website.

Dr Piccard said solar power was a source of peace and development, and that boosting renewable energy resources will up the quality of air and water, leading to better quality of life.

"When everyone can have his own energy," Dr Piccard said, "this is a way to have peace." 

President U Thein Sein met with Mr Borschberg and Dr Piccard last year and expressed how important it was for Myanmar to have solar power, Dr Piccard said. 

The pilot will touch down in Myanmar's second largest city in less than half a day. Upon landing, he'll thank the Solar Impulse team. "Then I will say hello to the people of Myanmar," he said.