Thu, Jun 21, 2012
Departure From Rabat, Morocco Planned For Thursday
After a first unsuccessful attempt to reach Ouarzazate, the Solar Impulse team remains determined to try again to land in Southern Morocco, a region known for its turbulence and high wind. If all goes according to plan, the solar airplane, designed and flown by Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, will depart from Rabat-Salé International airport for its second attempt to reach Ouarzazate Thursday at 0700 local time. The flight plan calls for the prototype to land after midnight (UTC+1), once the thermal activity in the area have stopped.
Two itineraries are being evaluated for the flight to Ouarzazate. The final decision will be made a few hours before departure, depending on the intensity of high altitude winds. The first flight plan largely follows the route of the flight's first attempt. The aircraft will travel in the direction of Casablanca by quickly ascending to a high altitude, avoiding the thermal currents. It will then go in the direction of Marrakesh at an altitude of 28,000 feet before beginning its slow descent into Ouarzazate International airport. The second plan follows the coastline at low altitude, at approximately 3,000 feet, in order to fly below the high winds until Essaouira. From there, the pilot will fly inland before landing at the final destination of Ouarzazate.
The Solar Impulse team says the flight is an "excellent" opportunity to bring the Solar Impulse project to the next level, pushing the limits of the aircraft and the team. Having proven the technological performance of the aircraft, the difficult meteorological conditions will test the aircraft’s aeronautical limits while preparing the Solar Impulse team in crisis and risk management ahead of the 2014 world tour.
Should this flight also wind up back at Rabat, the team plans to continue to attempt to reach Ouarzazate until June 26. If the meteorological conditions don’t turn out to be favorable by then, the team will have make its way back to Switzerland.
The choice to reattempt the flight to Ouarzazate is filled with symbolism. Despite the extreme difficulty of flying in this region, Solar Impulse wants to reach this destination because of what will be the world’s largest thermo-solar power plant, planned to start production in 2015, and thus continue to provide its full support to Morocco’s overall ambitious solar energy plan launch by the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (Masen). (Image © Solar Impulse | Jean Revillard)
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