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Solar plane’s round the world test flight a success

One pilot of the world’s largest solar plane, Solar Impulse, has completed round-the-world flight simulation lasting 72 hours.

Bertrand Piccard, who developed the plane along with fellow Swiss entrepreneur André Borschberg, stayed at the controls of the flight simulator for 72 hours straight in preparation for the plane’s round the world journey in 2015.

The plane has a wingspan of 208 feet, weighs around 3,500 pounds and can fly both at day and night time thanks to 12,000 photovoltaic cells and batteries that conserve solar energy.

“This experiment provided vital training for the round the world flight, while at the same time  highlighting the extreme difficulty of this venture,” said Bertrand Piccard, Chairman and Pilot of Solar Impulse.

Bertrand Piccard focused during the simulation. Credit: Solar Impulse

Bertrand Piccard focused during the simulation. Credit: Solar Impulse

Experts from around the world assisted during the 72 hour simulation, monitoring fatigue, cockpit ergonomics, nutrition, use of the toilet, exercises to prevent thrombosis, vigilance and the ability to pilot the aircraft in a state of sleep deprivation.

According to the Solar Impulse team, “Piccard used self-hypnosis techniques to remain alert, manage his fatigue and sleep. Bertrand went into episodes of hypnotic trance to stimulate his activity, fall asleep or wake up faster. Over the 72 hour period, he rested 35 times for a period of 20 minutes.”

In 2013, the duo successfully flew across the U.S. in the solar plane and launched a partnership with Google. The internet giant will be the plane’s official “Internet Technology Partner,” sharing the plane’s progress with supporters using Google technology.

André Borschberg, CEO and Pilot of Solar Impulse, said that “[t]he 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.”


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