Solar Impulse completed its epic round the world trip using only solar energy as fuel in the early morning of 26th July 2016, landing in Abu Dhabi, UAE.
We were very lucky to be invited to the Swiss Embassy’s celebrations for Solar Impulse in Abu Dhabi the day after on 27th July. Of course, we changed all our plans last minute and made all the arrangements necessary to make sure we could attend.
I have a special interest in Solar Impulse. I first visited the Solar Impulse team with the MIT Club of Switzerland in the Dübendorf Air Base in 2009. Solar Impulse is a Swiss effort and both the pilots are Swiss, as well as many members of the team. Andre Borschberg is also an MIT alum and had agreed to host us and introduce us to his pet project. From the start all of us were fascinated by the aircraft, which was parked right next to us in the hangar, as Andre showed a presentation about the project on the screen. Like any other MIT event, curiosity overflowed, and the MIT alumni kept Andre busy answering dozens of questions.
A couple of months later I sent my CV to Andre looking for a position at Solar Impulse. I got called for an interview to their hangar and met the entire team. I knew from my interview that if I got an opportunity to be part of the Solar Impulse team, I would learn much more about aircraft than I would by working for any of the OEMs like Airbus or Boeing. After all, in an OEM, thousands of people and hundreds of companies work to put together an aircraft. Everyone’s work is very specialized and an individual works only on a small part of the plane. On the Solar Impulse team, however, I would have had a chance to learn about every system on the plane.
Unfortunately, in late 2009/early 2010 the financial crisis had finally had its impact on Switzerland. My interviewer told me that Solar Impulse’s funding for the year had not been confirmed and they were not sure if they will be able to continue the project. A few months passed, the funding was still not confirmed and I ended up accepting another position. And that was that.
So after seeing up close and personal the struggles the Solar Impulse team faced, it was wonderful to be there at the end of their journey and see their success.
Bertrand Piccard gave a very emotionally charged speech of the adventure during the Swiss Embassy event. He said that since he was speaking to his own people (the Swiss), he could speak from the heart. And he proceeded to do just that as he inspired the entire audience and made us cry and laugh right along with him as he spoke about the adventure that lasted more than decade.
Here is a short video I took during his speech to share just a small portion of the historical moment with you.
Andre Borschberg gave a more emotionally controlled speech, but it was inspiring nevertheless. Here is an excerpt where he talks about how when we face problems, we should not give up on our dreams. Problems are just challenges we have to overcome to achieve our dreams. Some times those same problems end up being the best thing that could have happened to us.
To view a brief video of the entire journey, check out