Im Rahmen des OMV Village in Alpbach haben wir Bertrand Piccard getroffen, den schweizer Abenteurer und Facharzt für Psychiatrie, der als Erster die Erde in einem Ballon umrundet hat. Ein sympathischer und energiegeladener Typ, der ständig seine Grenzen auslotet und Neues ausprobiert.
Gefragt haben wir Bertrand nach seinem neuen Projekt „Solar Impulse“. Spätestens 2014 will er mit einem Solarflugzeug emissionsfrei die Welt umrunden.
Bertrand, let’s talk about you for a minute. Tell us a bit about your new project “Solar Impulse”. When did you launch it and why?
Bertrand Piccard: I was born and raised with respect for the environment and a passion for exploration. In 1997, I thought the greatest possible adventure for the 21st century would be the one combining the two: to fly around the world with no fuel and no pollution. This is how the vision of Solar Impulse started. But to make it a reality, a feasibility study has been made by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, and a technical team has been gathered by my partner André Borschberg. The project has been officially launched November 23, 2003.
Have you completed the manufacturing of the aircraft yet? What is or was the most difficult aspect in the manufacturing process? And how many people got involved in the project?
Bertrand Piccard: We have now a team of 56 people, mainly engineers, and more than 100 advisors, subcontractors and partners who have worked on the concept, design and simulations of the solar airplane. We are now in the middle of the construction, with the challenge of producing an airplane in carbon fibres as large as a big Airbus and lighter than a medium size car! This airplane should make its first flights in 2009 with the goal of flying through the night with the energy gathered by the photovoltaic cells during the day. Then we will build a second airplane in order to cross the Atlantic and go around the world by 2011 or 2012.
You were born into a family of explorers and scientists. In your family, who influenced you most?
Bertrand Piccard: I was born into a family of explorers whose adventures of course influenced me a lot. My grandfather was the first man in the stratosphere and the first to see with his own eyes the curvature of the earth. My father made the deepest dive ever, to the bottom of Marianna’s Trench, with the Bathyscaphe he had built with my grandfather. I was also influenced a lot by all the explorers I met who were friends of my father: astronauts of the American space program, aviators like Charles Lindbergh, divers and environmentalists. They all showed me how interesting life can be when we explore the world, when we explore life and the unknown, beyond the certainties and the common assumptions. Talking with them made me wish to have the same kind of life.
How do you designate flight routes?
Bertrand Piccard: The flight around the world will be achieved along the Tropic of Cancer, making one stop every five days on each continent. The take off should happen in the Arabic Emirates and intermediate landings will be made in Asia, Hawaii, USA, southern Europe and back to the Emirates. We are ready to associate to our project the countries that care for high technologies and energy savings. We would accept with pleasure an invitation of China to make a landing in the Empire of the Middle, and would be open to having a partner or a sponsor from China.
Apart from the risk-loving, what are your other hobbies?
Bertrand Piccard: I have absolutely no love for pure risk taking. What I love is to explore the world, to study life, science, human behavior and spirituality with an open mind that means without certainties, dogmas or common assumptions. What pushed me to initiate the Solar Impulse project is the desire to promote renewable energies and energy savings through a positive and optimistic adventure: use the spirit of pioneering to demonstrate that we can fly around the world without any fuel, and encourage people to save energy in their daily life as well.
It’s been a pleasure talking with you about all this, Bertrand. Thank you very much and the best of luck with your project!
Bertrand Piccard: Thank you both, Anja and Peter.
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