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Posted on April 06, 2012

Preparations for round the world solar flight

In February this year André Borschberg completed three days and three nights of flight simulation in preparation for a round-the-world solar powered flight in 2014. During those 72 hours the Solar Impulse team was able to test the human challenge posed by long flights and gain valuable insights for the round-the-world solar energy flight scheduled for 2014.
Installed inside a life-size mock-up of the cockpit of the second plane currently under construction, André Borschberg took up the challenge of piloting the Solar Impulse simulator non-stop for 72 hours. Everything was tested and evaluated by the Solar Impulse team, from tiredness to cockpit ergonomics, nutrition, toilets, exercises to prevent DVT, vigilance, and the aptitude to pilot an aircraft under conditions of sleep deprivation.
During the simulation André Borschberg tested two rest strategies corresponding to the two types of flight the pilots will undertake during the round-the-world trip. Firstly, relaxation techniques used during short flights (24 to 36 hours) over inhabited zones, where sleep is not an option. Secondly, micro-sleep phases of 15 to 20 mins permitted only when overflying oceans. Over the 72-hour period André Borschberg slept 32 times 20 minutes in a seat specially developed by the Swiss company Lantal.
For Solar Impulse this coming spring will have little in common with a simulation. Flights over the Mediterranean region have already been scheduled with the existing prototype. Another means of training for the round-the-world flight by carrying out flights that are longer in both distance and duration, with the two pilots for the first time relaying each other at each stage. The Kingdom of Morocco will welcome Solar Impulse in the spring of this year. After its inaugural flight to Paris and Brussels in 2011, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg's solar airplane will attempt, for the first time ever, to fly over 2,500 km without using a drop of fuel, finally landing in Morocco.
During May or June, Solar Impulse will take off for its longest ever flight, crossing the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean. Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg will take turns to fly the aircraft on its 48-hour journey, with a scheduled intermediate stopover near Madrid to change pilots. This long-duration flight will serve as a dress rehearsal for the round-the-world flight in 2014. It will allow the Mission team to gather additional experience in cooperating with international airports, integrating the prototype into regular air traffic patterns, and managing the logistics of maintenance.
André Borschberg, co-founder and CEO of Solar Impulse said "This destination corresponds fully with the goals we had set ourselves, in terms of distance and flight duration." He added: "Flying as far as this, powered only by solar energy will be excellent training for the round-the-world trip."
The Solar Impulse team will be welcomed in Morocco by the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN), whose role is to develop Morocco's solar energy plan. This program is the most ambitious not only in the region but world-wide, in terms of its innovative strategies and large-scale integration of solar technologies. When they arrive in Morocco, the pilots will symbolically present to their hosts samples of the solar technologies exploited by Solar Impulse.
Source and image: Solar Impulse