Solar Impulse pilot spoke with U.N. from cockpit during testing leg of journey


The historic journey, during which the Solar Impulse 2 will fly around the world using nothing but solar energy, collided with another momentous event on Friday, as pilot Bertrand Piccard spoke with the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon from the cockpit, after 175 countries signed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change at the United Nations headquarters in New York. It happened during one of the hardest legs of the trip, as the pilots reveal the endurance and discipline required to complete the journey.

During the brief conversation, the two complimented one another’s efforts in promoting renewable energy, and the pioneering spirit that is needed to achieve a clean energy future. “You know, Mr Secretary-General, what you are doing today in New York by signing the Paris Agreement is more than protecting the environment – it is the launch of the clean revolution,” said Piccard. “If an airplane like Solar Impulse 2 can fly day and night without fuel, the world can be much cleaner.”

The U.N. Secretary General also took the opportunity to reassure the Solar Impulse team that those in office are also making strives to achieve a sustainable future, while noting that he looked like an astronaut during his arduous journey.

“While you are making history flying around the world, we also are making history today,” said Ki-moon. “More than 175 countries signed the Climate Change Agreement. Thank you for your leadership and inspiration. We wish you a smooth flight. You are leading us into a new era. Bon voyage!”

This mammoth leg of the journey took a total of 62 hours and 29 minutes, during which Piccard could only sleep at 20 minute intervals at a time. It was one of the riskiest legs, flying 4,523 km from Hawaii to California at an average speed of 65.39 km/h. The conditions within the plane made it particularly testing, as there is no heat or air conditioning, and few opportunities for mental stimulation.

The second of the two pilots, Andre Borschberg, who flew the longest leg of the journey from Japan to Hawaii, spoke of the endurance needed to fly the plane after it landed in California. He noted that “as a human being you can be sufficiently sustainable to be able to fly at least five days in such a plane.”