Why Solarimpulse’s return to Brussels is not a failure

Why, in my humble opinion, Solarimpulse’s return to Brussels is not a failure but rather an aborted attempt to reach french airport Le Bourget.

Background information

Since its beginning, I have been a fanboy of the Solarimpulse project initiative powered by two leaders : Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg.

Not only their are passionate, they provide a thorough reflexion on today’s world ability to waste energy and pollute mother Earth. At least, these two adventurers are doing something to try moving mountains amongst common people and elected officials.

On friday May 13th, I was fortunate to attend Solar Impulse (HB-SIA) landing at Brussels Airport. I was even more fortunate to meet Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg onsite in Hangar 117 thanks to the Bloggers ‘Up close tour’ and Morning breakfast.

André & Bertrand are not showing off or reluctant to share anything, they are aligned with their reputation of sharing a clear vision, dream and passion : change people’s habits and way to consume energy.

All along the Solarimpulse’s journey, since the drawing and proof of concept til the raising of prototype of Solarimpulse 1 (HB-SIA) and the forthcoming prototype 2 (HB-SIB), it was quite clear and communicated that this piece of technology was a prototype and a conveyor for messages, ideas and hopes. (not to replace common civil aviation nor host passengers).

(Attempt) Journey from Brussels (EBBR) to Le Bourget (LFPB)

Since its arrival in Brussels, it was the plan to fly then over to Le Bourget.

As clearly stated on its flight plan (see example from Flight plan to Brussels) it is an experimental flight. Not only this aircraft operates under heavy safety rules, it must also obey its design and blueprint limitations.

Yesterday, saturday June 11th was not only important to me as it was my youngest son birthday but also because Solarimpulse was going to attempt its second international flight to Paris. Now, besides being a fanboy, I have like all most of us only access to public information, whereas official press would have more insight information.

I understood from the feed on their internet website and the twitter feed from Solarimpulse and André Borschberg (the pilot) that after a many simulations and math, the team decided to move ahead and give the green light for departure.

Now weather conditions were quite challenging but the Solarimpulse team decided to reasonably going ahead and continue with the take off.

After take off, it seems that Eole was not really helping the team nor the pilot to fulfil their objective to reach Paris. On top of that, the aircraft gear wouldn’t go up and had to stay down, which also had an impact on its speed. C’est la vie …

Just before heading to bed, I ‘sadly’ heard the news that Solarimpulse was meant to head back to temporary base in Brussels (there is another myth that claims that André Borschberg was hungry and couldn’t wait nor resist Belgian food and hospitality… but that’s another blog entry).

Indeed, based on facts and figures, the Solarimpulse team (which includes the pilot of course) took the wise and clever decision to abort first temptative to reach Paris.

Kudos to the team for their sound wisdom and attitude for not listening to the outside pressure and temptation to carry on this test flight to Paris.

After all, what does matter the most ? The pilot’s life and the prototype aircraft in which so many people and crew invested time, energy, hopes (not to mention financial investment & money !). So was it the right decision ? Of course it was ! They are not there to jeopardize anyone safety nor the aircraft structure. I was relieved to hear André landed safely and I went on with sweet dreams…

This morning, when I woke up, I was really upset on some of the news I have read and seen. Most journalists powered by so called reliable press sources are first misusing the word ‘failure’ too many times and providing inaccurate or even made up information !

>The Swiss info is highlighting technical failure which, based on the public information is not correct. Also, journalist like round number but the SIA data is inaccurate, there are not 12000 solar cells on Solarimpulse but 11628 cells… shouldn’t journalists check their sources and most important read the official press releases ?

> Journalist, get forgiven and adopt a cell today !

  • Even last friday, AFP was mentionning that Ela Borschberg, the son of André was reporting ….(..) when Ela is his daughter…
  • Another press release was mentionning that Solarimpulse was sponsored by the European Union.. as far as I can tell and to the best of my knowledge, this is not the case. It’s faulty information as Solarimpulse is living on private and other sponsor funding. The fact the EU flag was added on aircraft is due to its visit to European HQ in Brussels but does not provide financial endorsement… Again wrong information… (I bet team would be thrilled to have more political commitment and funding but that’s another debate).
  • . . .

That’s just an excerpt of the misleading and negative information broadcasted through professional channels.

The failure would thus have been to loose not only the pilot and/or the aircraft…

That’s the reason why in my humble opinion, this saturday whereabout was not a failure but rather an aborted attempt.

After all, the common safety rule ‘better safe than sorry’ must be used at all times.

My five cents from a local belgian fanboy who wanted to thank Solarimpulse team for their great work and encourage them for the second and hopefully successful attempt to Paris.

After all, quoting Bertrand Piccard ‘They are more knowlegeable’ now as they learned from new conditions and this first journey attempt to Paris….

All the best,

Martin Gillet


About Martin Gillet

Freelance SAP HCM Consultant,trainer & SAP Mentor, Father of 2 little angels, Dreamer, Passionate over ERP Processes, Globetrotter & Student Pilot (on the fly). Follow me on twitter : @mgillet (Photo Avatar from Tom Raftery)
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4 Responses to Why Solarimpulse’s return to Brussels is not a failure

  1. sam_piroton says:

    Not to mention that the flight did happen, that solarimpulse stayed flying for more than 5 hours again, in the dark aswell.
    As i tried to correct it immediately on twitter, “failure” appeared last night already, most and mainly through agencies… and it keeps worrying me than the press feel it more appropriate to use harsh words rather than explain and write the correct stuff.

    It’s the same story with the Ice Watch brand. Lutgen has gone for it, created a business, around marketing mostly, and has made it quite big now. And what do you read? insteand of praising him for that, RTBF now runs a story saying watches are only 6-8 euros worth while they are sold 65. So what? What about Apple computers? what about Swatch watches?
    I really dont understand why they report negatives instead of positives.

  2. Bernard Rausch says:

    I subscribe to every word you write above! I was also irritated to hear words like failure/échec in the news already yesterday night. What do they expect? This is about pushing the limits and not only by a small amount! So there is bound to be attempts that have to be aborted, precisely to avoid failure and disaster. I have no doubt that when the SI team embarked on the attempt yesterday, they knew it was going to be tight and there was a chance of having to turn back. This was built into the plan. For those who listened to the live transmissions from their control room, they knew exactly when they had to assess the energy balance and when they had to make a final go/nogo decision. As Bertrand Piccard explained, “the decision was based on facts” and there was no room for complacency. That’s what aviation is all about, especially in such an innovative context.
    Solar Impulse people are true professionals, which is not the case for those journalists who use such strong terms very lightly (this looks more like a vulture behavior, in my humble opinion…).

    I met the two cofounders on a couple of occasions as well. What strikes you when you meet them is that they don’t need to boast about what they do. They remain as humble as can be. They have a vision, they communicate it (damned well!) and they concentrate on the job! Full stop.
    By the way, I have seen many other comments from non-journalist people who obviously have no clue of what’s going on here. Ignorance can be forgiven. The problem with journalists is that they reach a wide audience of sometimes ignorant people which they are supposed to inform, not feed with sensationalism. They are expected to behave as professionals and have no excuse for mediocrity.

    There is an old saying in French that says: “La bave des crapauds n’atteint pas les étoiles”. Stay on your heading Bertrand, André and the team! The rest does not matter.

    Congrats again for your blog entry!
    P.S. I don’t resist sharing with you my experience of the night landing yesterday: http://www.solarimpulse.com/blog/fr/2011/06/12/solar-impulse-s%e2%80%99est-pose-en-toute-securite-a-bruxelles/#comment-1274

  3. dnr says:

    Many journalists love to make things all black or white. If you didn’t make it, then you failed, right? Writing “failure” certainly sells more than “aborted attempt”.

    The only failure I see here is professional journalism.

  4. Pingback: Solar Impulse fait demi-tour et la presse fait… trois petits tours? | Climb to the Stars

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