Solar Impulse returns to Rabat
The Solar Impulse aircraft of Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg landed safely at the Rabat-Salé International airport at 00:14am (UTC+1) after attempting to reach Ouarzazate.
Due to unexpected headwinds and turbulences the prototype was constrained to return to its point of departure.
At Solar Impulse, the safety of the pilot and aircraft are the priority in all missions. For this reason, at around 03:26pm (UTC+1), half way between Casablanca and Marrakesh after leaving Rabat airport at 08:07am (UTC+1) yesterday morning, the decision was made to turn back to Rabat due to degrading weather conditions. This situation is a reminder of how challenging and difficult the Solar Impulse missions are and how flexible and prepared the entire team and the host country must be.
"To this day, every flight was so well prepared making everything seem so easy. Maybe too easy given that we almost forgot that the Solar Impulse HB-SIA is a prototype which was initially only destined to fly over Switzerland as proof of its ability to fly day and night without fuel. What we are doing today with these intercontinental flights is at the limit of its capabilities and each mission is a technical and human feat for the entire team," said Piccard, initiator and chairman of Solar Impulse.
"This is an illustration of the height of the challenge this airplane, as well as the entire Solar Impulse team, are faced with both on the technological and human levels. I am confident in their ability to succeed in this second stage of the mission and I am certain that the emotion will be even greater," added Mustapha Bakkoury, president of the management board of Masen.
"Given the challenging meteorological conditions over the Moroccan desert, the team had already prepared all the possible scenarios, including a possible return on Rabat. The decision was the best albeit not the easiest to accept. It is an experience that renders us humble when faced with nature. When the headwind is faster than the speed of the aircraft, and when we are pushed back at an altitude of 8'000m, we risk to quickly losing all references. That is the moment when we need to decide to stop," said Borschberg, CEO and co-founder of Solar Impulse.