Solar Impulse 2 ‘beginning of a revolution’
Merve Erdil – ISTANBUL
Solar Impulse 2, which has flown across the Pacific for five consecutive days and nights, is signaling a revolution in air transportation, one of the Swiss vehicle’s two pilots has told Hürriyet.
“We believe it is the beginning of a revolution for the world of aviation,” Andre Borschberg said during a recent visit to Istanbul.
However, a great effort is needed to fulfill the dream of building effective electric engine planes.
“Electrification will happen but it will start with small airplanes. We should not make the mistake we did with cars. Just to have an airplane, take the combustion engine out and put in electric motors. It will not work as well,” Borschberg said.
The pilot highlighted two dimensions of Solar Impulse 2. “It is solar and electric to be very efficient. You will not see the Airbus 380 flying on solar power alone because it is too heavy, it needs too much power. But what you can see is an airplane fly on electric,” he said.
An electric engine aircraft would be highly efficient in terms of energy consumption, he said, noting that the combustion engine of a car is 30 percent as electric motors have an efficiency of 95 percent.
“It’s silent, it’s not polluting and you have to see how you produce electricity. If you produce electricity from the sun, from the wind or from geothermal energy and so on, it’s not polluting. It’s much easier to build. It will be cheaper and it will be safer,” said Borschberg.
The goal of the project was to build an “ambassador for clean technologies,” the pioneer pilot said.
He also elaborated on his longest flight, when Solar Impulse 2 flew across the Pacific for five days and nights to become the first solar airplane to accomplish an oceanic crossing. The record-breaking flight from Japan to Hawaii was achieved by Borschberg in July 2015, before Bertrand Piccard finished crossing the Pacific, and flew over the Atlantic, making the vehicle the first solar plane to have crossed the world’s two biggest oceans.
“The limit was not the airplane, the limit was the pilot,” Borschberg said.
“Five days and five nights without stopping and alone. I was just by myself. So the limit was no longer technology, it was the human being. When you are alone you have to fly the airplane. You have to be focused, so you cannot sleep much. You basically need to change the pilot so the airplane can continue,” he said.
“It’s a gift to fly in an airplane,” said Borschberg when asked about how it feels to constantly fly with a solar-powered plane.
“You look at the wings from the cockpit. You see the sun and you just see the sunrays coming on the wing. And you start thinking only the sun rays give you enough energy to fly, give you enough energy to climb to 9,000 meters, which is the altitude of big airplanes. And enough to fly through the night, when you have no sun, when it is completely dark, to continue day after day. It is an incredible feeling. There are no limits anymore. You can continue and continue,” he said.