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Solar Impulse 2 back in Switzerland

Plane’s stay at Dübendorf would be temporary, company looking for best option

Image Credit: Reuters
Staff unload the Solar Impulse 2 aircraft from a cargo aircraft in Duebendorf near Zurich, Switzerland. Solar Impulse plane completed a round the world flight without fuel in July 2016 in Abu Dhabi.
Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Solar Impulse 2 (Si2), the first zero-fuel airplane that circumnavigated the world, is waiting for its future role after it was shipped back to Switzerland from Abu Dhabi last week.

The plane had set several world records by flying more than 40,000km in 17 legs and 15 months on solar power alone, crossing Asia, the Pacific, the USA, the Atlantic, the Mediterranean and the Middle East. The plane supported by Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, Masdar, had started its world trip from Abu Dhabi and completed it here with Swiss adventurers Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg taking turns in the cockpit.

Now Si2 is finally back to its origins, where the idea began and the adventure of perpetual endurance started 13 years ago, the Solar Impulse teams said.

“The airplane couldn’t stay in Abu Dhabi, therefore, we brought it back to Switzerland where we have a hangar to store it until we find the best option,” an official spokesperson of Solar Impulse, the organisation that owns the plane, told Gulf News by email from Switzerland on Wednesday.

Asked whether the public can see the plane at Dübendorf airfield in Switzerland where it is being kept now, she said: “The airplane won’t be reassembled in Dübendorf because the hangar doesn’t allow it; it’s too small. Therefore, we will not organise public display.”

A Solar Impulse announcement said the plane’s stay at Dübendorf would be temporary as they were looking for the best option for her future. They added that it was not an easy task given the plane’s 72-metre wingspan! The design of the aircraft, the right weather window or the necessary authorisations were challenging in this regard, they said.

Museums in different parts of the world have shown keen interest in hosting Si2, but none of them has sufficient space for an airplane that size. Asked whether this option was totally ruled out due to the plane’s size, the spokesperson said: “ No, if we cannot find a place where the airplane can be displayed entirely, we are also considering displaying only part of the plane — its fuselage, cockpit, wing etc,” she said.

Solar Impulse is considering using the plane in future technological projects. The spokesperson said the possible areas of the projects would be electrical propulsion and power management, but it was too early to give the details.

Borschberg, one of the pilots, said: “Si2 is now back in Dübendorf, where it was designed and built and where the team is currently working on new and efficient transportation solutions.”

Piccard, another co-pilot, said: “Solar Impulse’s message continues. The flight around the world was only the first part of the adventure; the second is the World Alliance for Clean Technologies that was launched in Marrakesh on November 11.”

Solar Impulse said its engineers have been continuing to work on innovative projects, such as unmanned and high endurance electric aircraft.