Solar Impulse, the most famous solar plane in the world, is currently performing test flights in Phoenix, Arizona at the Sky Harbor International Airport. The folks behind it are entertaining the curious public as well as other renewable energy supporters, including the Governor of Arizona, Mrs. Jan Brewer, and the Honorary Consul of Switzerland, Alisa Jost. The team is waiting for the right conditions to continue its mission. The next leg will take the crew to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in Dallas, Texas.
While they were still at Moffett Airfield in Mountain View, California, Richard Branson visited the Solar Impulse team. You may remember his aviation adventures, which include his hot air balloon “Virgin Atlantic Flyer” crossing the Atlantic in 1987 and airline company Virgin Airlines. It is said that a new venture of his will offer a revolutionary, cheaper fuel for automobiles and, in the near future, aircraft. Seems a great fit with the solar plane, Solar Impulse. This is what the team had to say:
Welcome Sir Richard Branson! Our New Patron
Last month, the Solar Impulse team at Moffett was presented with an unusual visit. Sir Richard Branson, Founder and Chairman of Virgin Group, British business tycoon and entrepreneur, showed up at Moffett Airfield. Although it might have appeared as a surprise, the parallels between Solar Impulse and Richard are all too evident for it to be a simple coincidence.
Richard and Bertrand have a relationship that stretches back to their ballooning days. In fact, Richard, with Per Lindstrand, were the first to cross the Pacific Ocean in a hot air balloon in 1991. Seven years later, in 1999, Bertrand, with Brian Jones, were the first to circumnavigate the globe beating Richard, Linstrand and Fossett’s similar attempt in 1998. “I doff my cap to him” Richard said elegantly when asked about the potential rivalry this might have caused.
Richard was extremely enthusiastic and impressed at the sight of Solar Impulse, to the point that he jokingly added, “I just need to find a way to smuggle that plane out in my pocket!” Richard is also looking at ways to harness solar power by using it to tow aircraft onto the runway in the near future.
One could feel the camaraderie between André, Bertrand and Richard as the pilots showed off their engineering jewel to the Englishman. He even recognized, in HB-SIA’s sleek silhouette, a great communication tool – a message carrier, a “weapon” to showcase the potential of clean techs and innovation – values Richard also shares.
Richard didn’t hesitate to become Solar Impulse’s Patron and, as he was leaving for another engagement in his busy schedule, he gave big thumbs up with his trademark smile “I always set myself challenges that might seem impossible…” Wait, haven’t I heard that somewhere already? André? Bertrand? I think we found our project’s new soul mate!
A person watching the flight live at solarimpulse.com tweeted that they saw the solar plane depart Moffett Airfield from their home. They said it looked like “a fast feather climbing.” Some say dreams inspire innovation. This is one fine dream.
For more coverage of the solar plane, Solar Impulse visit: www.solarimpulse.com