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Tuesday 19 November 2019

Pilots urge clean energy drive

Swiss pilots Bertrand Piccard, left, and Andre Boschberg acknowledge the media after landing at an airport in Ahmadabad, India. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)
Swiss pilots Bertrand Piccard, left, and Andre Boschberg acknowledge the media after landing at an airport in Ahmadabad, India. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)

The pilots of a solar-powered aircraft on an historic round-the-world journey say they want the people of India to support their campaign for clean energy to save the global environment.

Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg spoke to reporters in the western Indian city of Ahmadabad a day after Piccard flew the single-seat plane there from Muscat, Oman.

Mr Piccard said their goal was to spread the message of adopting clean technologies and improving the quality of life of India's 1.2 billion people.

He said they chose to demonstrate this with a solar-powered aircraft "because this is what captures the imagination of people".

The fuel-free aircraft, called the Solar Impulse 2, is powered by more than 17,000 solar cells on its wings that recharge the plane's batteries, enabling it to fly.

The round-the-world trip began on Monday in Abu Dhabi, with Mr Borschberg piloting the first leg of the trip.

"It was an incredible experience," he told reporters at a temporary hangar at Ahmadabad's Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel international airport, where the plane remains parked.

Mr Borschberg said he practised yoga to prepare himself for the rigours of flying solo for long hours during the trip.

For the second leg, from Muscat to Ahmadabad, Mr Piccard was at the controls of the aircraft.

He said flying to India was a long-cherished dream. "Sixteen years ago, I flew around the world non-stop in a balloon and I flew over India. Today, I am very happy to be back," he said.

He said they chose to land in Ahmadabad because some of the material used in the plane was sourced from companies near the city.

During their stay in Ahmadabad, the pilots are scheduled to meet with Indian government officials, environmental groups and students to speak to them about sustainable energy.

On Saturday, if weather conditions are suitable, the plane will fly to the northern Indian city of Varanasi to lend support to efforts to clean up the heavily polluted Ganges River.

The Solar Impulse 2 is slated to make 12 stops during its 35,000-kilometer (21,700-mile) journey, including in China and Burma, before it crosses over the Pacific Ocean. It will then land in Hawaii and the US Midwest and East Coast before flying over the Atlantic Ocean. It may also stop in southern Europe or North Africa, depending on weather conditions.

Some legs of the trip, such as over the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, will mean five days and five nights of flying solo.

The fuel-free aircraft's flight has excited people across the world who see solar energy as the fuel of the future, providing a source of clean, renewable energy.

One drawback of using the sun's energy was the high cost of solar electric panels. But in recent years, solar panels have become 70% less expensive and are expected to become cheaper still as newer, more energy-efficient materials are developed.

PA Media

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