Pioneers Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, the pilots for the all-solar plane, had the dream for The Solar Impulse— the first manned flight to fly both day and night. When we first met, it was a model plane and now it has made history. There are few people who choose to live their lives by pioneering inspirational projects that prioritize the global dream of transformation; in that spirit we are united. In this way, even when I met Bertrand Piccard and André Roschberg for the first time in Copenhagen, Denmark 2009 at the United Nation’s conference COP15, they shined the light through their eyes, with words and ultimately deeds of inspiration.
Betrand would say, “Life is not governed by chance, but by encounters”. We shared about realizing dreams against seemingly impossible challenges; we shared visions, and together laughed louder than the chorus’ that sang songs of cynicism and doubt, and knew this was an important time for our planet. A time where human’s challenge to live in balance with our natural resources needed demonstration. The Across America journey was then a distant dream. From San Francisco to Texas to Arizonia to St. Louis to Washington DC and ultimately to New York.
The Solar Impulse the all-solar airplane follows in a rich tradition of risky aviation demonstrations from the Wright Brothers to Lindberg’s hop over the Atlantic. These pioneers used their flights to push the dream into reality, launching new industries by piloting courageous first flights for the public to witness. Bertrand’s family has a lineage of this type of pioneering legacy as well, with a message. But it is more than the technology, it is a model for a path that is needed—and each major step, is a metaphor not just for realizing aviation dreams but also for a demonstration project about renewable energy to combat climate change. It’s more than teaming-up unique pioneers like Bertrand and André. Herein, this project is a marriage of innovative technology and sustainability, both needed to come together for real change at a rapid rate with public adoption, for global transformation.
We at World Team Now watched from afar as the plane became a reality, as it was tested and flown in different parts of the world—following, promoting to the public, sharing, blogging, tweeting and holding the light that we would unite, and all of our dreams would indeed be realized. We watched and followed the stream in real time through the pilot’s journeys watching one major step after another.
What a surprise to learn that both Bertrand and André Borschberg who I just followed virtually from St. Louis to Washington DC, would be the key note speakers for Renewable Energy Financing Forum (REFF) -Wall Street. REFF-Wall Street, an event World Team Now participated in as a supporting organization is held in New York City, and they, us, and the event would all be in New York. Their key note’s message to the extremely traditional Wall Street financial brokers was that “green” was not just good for the ecology; it was also good for the economy, stimulating new industries, and many green jobs. The Solar Impulse’s approach to financing going beyond traditional methods was indeed an entrepreneurial approach with integrated marketing partners, branded with their technology and services within the Solar Impulse, patrons, angels, and other fundraising mechanisms. This all hit home harder when President Obama gave a speech on his plan to fight climate change which echoed similar sentiments that were spoken by the innovators of the Solar Impulse team. When we connected after the key note, I learned of the challenges of the last leg to New York with what was then an exact unknown departure date and time; there were still formidable obstacles. To top it off, it was a surprise to see Bertrand and André again in the same day during NY Clean Energy Week’s event at the Tesla showroom celebrating along with other innovators.
We at World Team Now worked diligently to find a way to support the last leg’s landing of the Across America from Washington to New York, and through our contacts at the Governor’s office were able to team-up people and bring in the Port Authority to participate and contribute to help overcome some of the obstacles.
We were honored to participate in a slice of history and be present for the successful landing of the Solar Impulse at JFK on Saturday July 6th 2013 at 11:09 pm. This “dream come true” moment was ineffable. To be in the presence of all who made the living dream of transformation a true reality, to share in the moment of completion of the Across America Journey with them and be there to see with one’s own eyes is an indelible moment that lives in many lives, besides mine. There was only a small group of us VIPs, journalists, and 50 lucky contest winners allowed to this special historic event. Not only was aviation history written in New York, but it was such a victorious event, as the plane continued to fly even after a rip in the fabric about 8 feet occurred in flight, forcing the plane to land early and modify their originally intended route and landing time.
Had the plane crashed, instead of the one in San Francisco, of course all eyes would have been on the Solar Impulse (a commentary about our society’s present values). Those of us that bore witness to this historical moment were so elated; a spirit that was contagious with looks of awe in the silence and lack of noise, with clean fresh breathable air free of burned jet fuel, with a wing span (208 ft / 63.4m) a bit larger than a 747 ‘s (195 ft 8 in / 59.6 m) when it landed a few feet in front of us on the tarmac where we waited. We met others who were equally blown away by this moment and also captured it here in Roland Pabst’s blog. The media impressions surpassed expectations with 8.3 billion thus far—which is significant, especially given the poor presence of traditional media sources at the New York landing.
The public at large has had a hard time of truly understanding the full potential of solar energy and other renewables as well as the importance of the change to a more balanced energy source. So when people can see that the all-solar plane flies at night they begin to really understand the battery storage concept— the choice to be able to feed energy back into the electrical grid and/or store energy, and even sell it back to the grid or use it. As Bertand explained, “Our plane, Solar Impulse, was never designed to carry passengers, but to carry a message”.
We learned more about the message at the press conference on Monday; events continued reaching the public like the opening of NASDAQ where Tom Werner from SunPower rang the bell with Bertrand and André. Then the meeting at the U.N. where the Clean Tech flag was planted—hopefully this will further inspire the U.N. towards a binding climate treaty— finally (especially after the horror of Copenhagen) — we are long overdue for global action for collective energy and for our one environment, our one world. The people of New York got other opportunities to share in the gift of the Solar Impulse at the various other community events hosted by sponsors, such as Schindler at the Intrepid. We hope this inspires you to see for yourself and take advantage of the Solar Impulse’s Public Day. If you miss the Solar Impulse this time, keep it on your radar, as in they will return during their World Tour in 2015. Say good-bye to this airplane yourself— it is for all people to see here in the USA at JFK now for the public, click here to find out more. Be an ambassador for our future, and go and see the beauty and possibility the Solar Impulse represents.