Solar Impulse Gets Special Welcome in Spain

Bertrand Piccard completes transatlantic flight surrounded by jets.

Solar Impulse Si2 has completed the transatlantic 15th leg, the second most challenging of the all-solar-powered round-the-world flight, landing early this morning in Seville, Spain. Bertrand Piccard, the initiator of the ambitious project, completed the 71-hour leg, which began at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

During his marathon flight, Piccard broke a few world records, which have already been submitted to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI – the World Air Sports Federation) for examination. The records are for distance and duration specific to electric and solar-powered airplanes.

Piccard’s flight also included several special moments. He had a chance to chat with a fellow aviation pioneer, Richard Branson. Branson broke a speed record in 1986 while crossing the Atlantic in a sailboat, Virgin Atlantic Challenger II, and also flew the Virgin Atlantic Flyer, a hot air balloon, across the Atlantic in 1987. Branson was part of a team that attempted to circumnavigate earth in a hot air balloon, but his team was beat out by Piccard’s team, which flew the Breitling Orbiter 3 around the world nonstop in 1999 – a flight that lasted nearly 20 days.

Solar Impulse Formation
The Spanish Air Force's Patrulla Aguila accompanies the Si2 as it flies into Seville.Solar Impulse

At the conclusion of the transatlantic flight in Si2, Piccard was saluted by Patrulla Aguila (the Eagle Patrol), a seven-ship formation team from the Spanish Air Force flying Casa C-101 Aviojets. The team flew in formation near the Si2 and let out its trademark red-and-yellow smoke trail, creating quite a contrast against the zero-emissions airplane. A couple of Eurofighter Typhoons also greeted the Si2 and helped keep Piccard awake as he slowly made his way to the Seville Airport.