The two Swiss pilots taking turns to fly a solar-powered plane around the world say the endeavour is not only a demonstration of the importance of renewable energy but also of the many challenges the human body can endure.
Bertrand Piccard completed a risky, three-day flight across a great expanse of the Pacific Ocean while sleeping only 20 minutes at a time inside the plane’s tiny cockpit with no heat or air conditioning and while having to keep constant contact with the Europe-based control centre.
“You have interviews, navigation control, communications with the control center in Monaco. You have health checks, a lot of health checks,” Piccard said.
“It’s very active, there are a lot of things to do, but you can nevertheless enjoy it.”
Piccard said he uses self-hypnosis to keep his energy up and puts heating pads inside his shoes and gloves for warmth. He also had no complaints about the ready-made meals he can warm up with a special heat packet and that can include risotto, chicken curry and potatoes.
On Sunday, special guests, many of them with Google, which is sponsoring the project, looked inside the plane at Moffett Airfield. The guests also mingled and took photos with Piccard and fellow Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg.
Piccard landed the Solar Impulse 2 in Mountain View, in the Silicon Valley south of San Francisco, on Saturday night following a 62-hour, nonstop solo flight from Hawaii without fuel.
The landing came hours after Piccard made a fly-by over the Golden Gate Bridge as spectators below watched the narrow aircraft with extra wide wings.
Piccard and Andre Borschberg have been taking turns flying the plane on an around-the-world trip since taking off from Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, in March 2015. It made stops in Oman, Myanmar, China, Japan and Hawaii.
The trans-Pacific legs were the riskiest part of the plane’s travels because of the lack of emergency landing sites.
Borschberg said the plane will again take flight this week, and the next stop could be Phoenix, depending on the weather.