Solar Powered Plane Makes Historic Landing in Mandalay

By Zarni Mann 20 March 2015

MANDALAY — Solar Impulse 2, an aircraft powered entirely by solar energy, made a successful landing at Mandalay’s Tada-U Airport shortly before 8pm on Thursday evening.

Mandalay Chief Minister Ye Myint, Minister of the President’s Office Soe Thein, Swiss ambassador Christoph Burgener and pilot Andre Borschberg were on hand to welcome Bertrand Piccard, who had flown the plane from Varanasi in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

“It is important to show that renewable energy, clean energy and solar energy are the forces for peace and development,” Piccard said on Thursday. “We want to encourage the younger generations to do more experimentation with solar energy for a greener environment.”

Piccard and Borschberg are taking turns to fly the plane in a world record attempt at solar-powered circumnavigation of the globe. The pair will stop in China, the United States and Europe before an expected return to Abu Dhabi in August, where the plane began its journey on Mar. 9. Piccard’s 1400-kilometer (870-mile) leg from Varanasi was accomplished in 13 hours and 29 minutes.

“The message is that renewable energy is very important for the future of our work to maintain the environment and to reduce pollution,” Ambassador Burgener told the crowd on Thursday evening. “The young generations here today can witness the role of solar power in developing a better quality of life.”

Traditional dancers, cheerleaders and bands performed at the airport to greet the aircraft on Thursday, and President Thein Sein and Burma Army chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing traveled to Mandalay on Friday morning to meet with the pilots.

The aircraft will next travel to Chongqing in China after a layover in Mandalay of at least three days, depending on weather conditions early next week.

Piccard and Borschberg conducted their first solar energy flight in 2009. In 2012, the pair successfully flew a solar-powered aircraft from Switzerland to Spain and Morocco, and the following year completed a cross-continental journey across the United States over the course of two months.