Bertrand Piccard at EBACE: Achieving the Impossible
This week Bertrand Piccard spoke in Geneva for Ebace, the largest business aviation event in Europe. He is the Initiator and President of the Solar Impulse Project, which aims to fly a solar-powered aircraft non-stop around the world. Solar Impulse 2 took off on 9 March 2015 from Abu Dhabi, heading east in its record-breaking attempt.
After the first ever oceanic crossing by a solar aeroplane and a record breaking flight from Japan to Hawaii, the second half of their round the world trip has now been delayed to April 2016 due to damaged batteries. He shared the pilot duties with fellow Swiss, Andre Borschberg.
EBACE 2017, the 17th edition of Europe’s largest business aviation exhibition, launched yesterday with a spirited opening session, reflecting a growing sense of optimism in the industry. Brandon Mitchener, the European Business Aviation Association’s new CEO, pointed to signs of resurgence “after years of sluggishness,” with a steady growth in flight activity over the past six months. The EBAA itself, celebrating its 40th anniversary, has grown from 12 members at its launch in 1977 to 665 today, Mitchener said.
In his speech, Piccard noted that people told him the solar-powered flight was impossible, as many said about a circumnavigation by balloon. “Why is it impossible?” he asked doubters. “The answer is always the same: ‘Because nobody has done it before.’ This is the most stupid answer you could ever get,” he said. Piccard stressed that the endeavor wasn’t about setting aviation records but demonstrating the power of clean energy through a means that would capture the world’s attention.
Bertrand Piccard then presented the rules for succeeding against all odds:
The first rule:
Don’t try to convince everybody you are right. Get the support or endorsement of one person or institution that will give you credibility.
Piccard found that support from the Swiss Institute of Technology, which agreed to conduct a feasibility study of the project.
The second rule:
Try to make a win-win situation. Nobody will do it just to fulfil your dream.
The new president of the Swiss Institute wanted to unify the 14 laboratories in the institution, which had never worked together. The Solar Impulse project became a unifying vehicle.
Announce and publicise the project. When nobody knows what you’re working on, it becomes very tempting to give up. When the entire world knows, you can never give up.
As soon as the Institute determined it was theoretically possible to fly around the world on solar power, Piccard and partner André Borschberg held a press conference to announce their mission plans, and they were on the CNN news channel that night.
You have to work with people who are completely different. If teammates are similar, maybe there’s no fight, but there’s no creativity.
He noted that Borschberg was a fighter jet pilot and engineer, while he is a balloonist and psychiatrist. “It creates a fantastic relationship of creativity. Sharing ideas aren’t important, we have to compare experiences, so one and one equals three.”
Born into a dynasty of explorers and scientists, Bertrand made the first ever non-stop round-the-world balloon fight. He is an internationally reputed psychiatrist, aeronaut and lecturer, Chairman of the Winds of Hope charitable foundation, and a UN Goodwill Ambassador. He combines science and adventure in order to promote a better quality of life.
Following the family tradition that combines scientific exploration, protection of the environment and the search for a better quality of life, Bertrand came up with the idea of flying round the world in a solar aircraft, without fuel or polluting emissions, to promote renewable energies and encourage energy savings. In 2003 he teamed up with André Borschberg to officially launch the Solar Impulse project and start building a revolutionary aircraft.
The adventure of the 21st century consists in using human creativity and the pioneering spirit to develop the quality of life to which present and future generations are entitled.