Imagination In Flight

Solar Impulse 2

Have you been following Solar Impulse 2?

One word: obsessed.

Lucky for me, I work from home. I’m neck deep in a project right now, but I’ve been following Solar Impulse 2 while sitting at my desk designing a project for a company on the other side of the Pacific ocean.

Solar Impulse 2

I have my browser open, with four tabs loaded full of content from a variety of sources — the Solar Impulse website and dashboard, the Solar Impulse Twitter feed, streaming video on YouTube and real-time tracking on FlightRadar24. With this influx of miraculous data I feel like I’m sitting right next to Si2’s pilot.

Yesterday, Solar Impulse 2 departed from Abu Dhabi and landed in Muscat. Today, Solar Impulse 2 is mid-flight between Muscat and Ahmedabad. Two pilots and a support team of 140 people are attempting to make this first-ever, solar-powered, round-the-world trip a reality, and so far it’s nothing short of amazing.

Solar Impulse 2

I’m listening to today’s pilot, Bertrand Piccard, breathing from his oxygen mask at 25,000+ feet. He breathes every few seconds and it sounds like he’s scuba diving. On this morning’s take-off, he did a fly-by over the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Oman. Oh, how I would have loved to be back in Oman to see Solar Impulse 2 silently glide by. When he reached the shores of Pakistan he commented on the landscape, saying, “Absolutely beautiful. A kind of desert arriving at the sea.” And later he said, “Thousands of islands, and it’s white. Everything is white.” He and the team theorized it might be salt.

I’ve been thinking a lot today about why I’m so suddenly obsessed with Solar Impulse 2. I love to travel, so of course I’m instantly attracted to the concept of going around the world. But it’s SO much more than that.

First Flight

The first successful flight of the Wright Flyer, by the Wright brothers ~ Image from Wikimedia Commons

Pilots André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard are like a modern-day Orville and Wilbur Wright, who pioneered this field over a century ago. The Wright brothers believed in flight — trying again and again to get into the sky while risking their lives and crash-landing every time, before their first successful flight in 1903. Here we are 112 years later, with Borschberg and Piccard taking us into the next era of possibility, pioneering a new way to fly the eco-friendly skies. Imagine where we’ll be in another hundred years.

When interviewed yesterday and asked if commercial carriers have shown any interest in their solar-powered flight, Piccard said they had not and added, “It wasn’t the people selling candles who invented the light bulb.” We need people like Borschberg, Piccard, Branson and so many others who are pushing the boundaries, not only for humans but for the environment, too.

And that’s another reason this story resonates on such a deep level. There’s a better way to fly. We’re a long way off from making solar-powered flight a viable and efficient method of travel, but we’ve taken a step in the right direction. The Solar Impulse 2 team says, “Solar Impulse 2 isn’t an airplane, it’s a message.”

I got the message loud and clear this morning while looking at the real-time flight data on FlightRadar24. There was Solar Impulse 2, a tiny little icon among hundreds — the ONLY flight running on clean power. IMAGINE if ALL of these flights were running on clean power. The world would be a better, cleaner place with a much bigger, brighter future.

Solar Impulse 2

And there it is, the underlying reason I’m obsessed: imagine. The paradigm is shifting because someone imagined it was possible. And imagining is impossible without creativity — one of the most valuable intangible things in the world; one of the hardest things to quantify; one of the easiest things to undervalue or even overlook.

My entire career is based on creativity so it’s no wonder Solar Impulse 2 is fascinating to me, and hopefully to you, too. Solar Impulse 2 is creativity illustrated and applied on the grandest of scales, with the most noble of intentions. It’s dreaming big for the future, and as the Solar Impulse 2 team says, The Future is Clean.

Good news, for a change! Imagine that.


You can follow Solar Impulse 2 here. It’s just about to land in India!


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