Flying round-the-world without fuel

Last Monday June 20, 2016 one of the two
pioneers’ for clean energy, Bertrand Piccard
who took control of the cockpit of a solar
airplane at 6.30 UTC from the JFK airport
New York, cruised across the Atlantic Ocean
without fuel and landed safely at Seville
Airport, Spain Thursday June 23, 2016 by
05.38 UTC. The airplane named Solar
Impulse 2 had a 71 hours 8 minutes
uninterrupted flying time. The Flight 15 in
the series of the first Round-The-World Solar
Flights without fuel covered a distance of
6765 km, flying electric with solar energy of
1388 kWh, zero fuel and zero emissions.
Piccard’s transatlantic adventure was
anchored on research and development in
aviation powered by the sun.
Solar Impulse 2 is the first solar airplane
ever to fly through the night across the
continents as well as the Pacific and
Atlantic Oceans. Founders Bertrand Piccard
and Andre Borschberg have attempted the
ultimate in 8 world records set by their Solar
Impulse prototype. The first transatlantic
flight was by Charles Lindbergh from New
York to Paris in a fuelled air plane in
1927. The Bertrand Piccard, Andre
Borschberg and their team’s breakthrough
and adventure in Solar Impulse 2 rekindled
aviation pioneering efforts in research and
design of two Americans, the Wright
Brothers (Orville and Wilbur) who invented,
built and flew the world’s first powered
airplane in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, USA
on December 17 1903.
The rookies, Orville and Wilbur gained
mechanical skills essential for their success
by working for years in their shop with
printing presses, bicycles, motors and other
machinery. In our clime the Orville and
Wilbur (high school three and four
respectively) would have been condemned to
obscurity as school dropouts and artisans
but America recognizes talent and skill to
cap their world. The Wright Brothers
achieved the feat in the second Industrial
Revolution period which commenced in
1870. Since then the aviation industry has
grown and developed to hypersonic flight
powered by heavier-than-air jets. The period
had key development models in division of
labour, electricity, mass production, internal
combustion engine, aero plane and moving
The first three Industrial Revolutions of 1784,
1870 and 1969 had fossil fuels (coal, oil and
gas) that drove them. The proposed Fourth
Industrial Revolution otherwise known as
Revolution 4.0 may be driven by renewable
and alternative energy sources outside fossil
fuels. Revolution 4.0 as proposed anticipates
a world’s first solar powered air plane, as
well as cyber-physical system innovations in
driverless smart cars, artificial intelligence,
robotics in hospitals, biotechnology,
nanotechnology, mobile banking, and 3.D
Growing concerns on global warming have
led to calls for reduction of greenhouse
emissions into the atmosphere. The 2015
Paris Conference of Parties (COP 21) to the
United Nations made nations have a legally
binding and universal agreement on climate
to keep global warming below 2p C. The
Group of Seven (G7) industrial nations had
considered a knockout for fossil fuels with
President Barack Obama initiating processes
of the Revolution 4.0 in the United States.
His final state of the union address on
January 12, 2016, reignited America’s
priority to invest in the future and avoid
subsidizing the past. That meant fossil fuels
would now be a thing of the past and
renewables as the future.
Our thoughts on petroleum and its usage in
Nigeria have been lethargic; tied to the
apron strings of other nations to supply us
products. The national oil company is still
relying on a group that is already investing in
renewable energy to make petroleum
products including Jet A, Jet A-1 (kerosene
type fuels) and aviation gasoline (Avgas) for
private, commercial and military flights sell
a dime a dozen. As we go The quest for
clean energy is real and might have led to
the two Swiss men’s 12 years intense
research and development since 2003. The
resultant airplane Solar Impulse was built by
a small team of 90 ingenious, highly
innovative professionals including 30
engineers, 25 technicians 22 mission
controllers, weathermen, mathematicians, air
traffic controllers and flight director.
The zero fuel Solar Impulse 2, described as
an airplane of perpetual endurance has an
unusual look. With a wingspan of a Boeing
747 Jumbo Jet of 72metres, it has the
wonder weight of a car of 2.3 tonnes. The
plane has a maximum recorded ground
speed of 216 km per hour and an average
airspeed of 75km per hour. It has flown at a
maximum altitude of 28,000 feet with 17,248
solar cells, four propellers and batteries. It
was built to promote clean technologies in
what major civil and military aircraft makers
thought was impossible. The energy reserves
of the airplane increase during flight, with
every watt supplied by the sun stored in
batteries for energy efficiency. It would
cover a cumulative distance of 36,602 km,
460hours 39min and solar energy of 9929
kWh in the historic global flights.
Flight one started from Abu Dhabi, UAE at
03.12 UTC (7.12 am local time) with Prince
Albert 11 of Monaco who gave Andre the
green light. Flying at an altitude of 6383
metres he covered a distance of 772 km,
arriving Muscat, Oman at 16.13 UTC on 9th
March 2015 after 13 hours 1 minute. The
message was to demonstrate what potential
clean technologies have for energy saving
and renewable energy production.
Alternating the flights Andre took the Flight 8
from Nagoya, Japan at 18.03 UTC on 28th
June 2015 arriving Kalaeloa, Hawaii, USA at
15.55 UTC on 03 July 2015 a distance of
8924 km flying and at an altitude of 8634
metres, a flight time of five days and five
nights (117 hours and 52 minutes), in a
historic first for aviation as well as for
renewable energies It thus broke the Steve
Fossett’s 2006 record of the longest solo
enduring flight of 76 hours 45 minutes.
Bertrand completed the leg from Hawaii to
San Francisco in 62 hours 29 minutes.
Bertrand Piccard 58 is the initiator and
chairman of Solar Impulse. He was born in
Lausanne Switzerland into a dynasty of
pioneers and scientists. He is a medical
doctor (psychiatrist), an explorer, astronaut,
lecturer and made the first non-stop round
the world balloon flight the longest flight
ever in the history of aviation both in
distance and duration. He was born into a
unique family of distinction of breaking world
records for both the highest flight and the
deepest dive. His father, Jacque Piccard
discovered the deepest part of the world’s
ocean and the deepest part of the earth
crust. His grandfather, Auguste Piccard
twice beat the record for reaching the
highest altitude in a balloon during the
Andre Borschberg 63 was born in Zurich,
Switzerland. Borschberg is an engineer,
graduate in management science, a fighter
pilot, a professional airplane and helicopter
pilot, and is co-founder and CEO of Solar
Impulse 2. He achieved the longest solo
flight ever in aviation history from Nagoya to
Hawaii. As a nation we seem to doze in a
slumberous heat of the afternoon,
procrastinating on diversification in a sing
along without coming to reality that we have
a few years to explore, produce and refine
petroleum for Nigeria’s socio-economic
development. We are busy in central revenue
sharing, in vampirism and in the universe of
the best of all possible worlds of the 17th
century where pessimist leaders of the time
thanked God that men cannot yet fly and lay
waste the sky as well as the earth.
We wish Nigeria would have leaders in
heroic moulds for a start off rather than
being bogged down in unimportant things.
As the world is being challenged and
solutions being found on the reduction in
carbon emissions the place of our petroleum
is a cause for worry. We must now
constitute a think-tank on how to utilize our
reserve of fossil fuels. The record breaking
flights are a clear signal that petroleum is on
its way to being consigned to geologic time.

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