Solar-powered plane lands in Egyptian capital

The Solar Impulse 2 flies over the pyramids in Cairo. (AP)
Updated 14 July 2016

Solar-powered plane lands in Egyptian capital

CAIRO: The Solar Impulse 2 landed in Cairo on Wednesday for its penultimate stop as the solar-powered plane nears the end of its marathon tour around the world.
After the two-day flight from Spain, just one final leg lies between it and its final destination, Abu Dhabi, where it started its odyssey in March last year.
The aircraft landed in Spain last month, after completing the first solo transatlantic flight powered only by sunlight.
After setting off from Seville on Monday morning, the plane passed through Algerian, Tunisian, Italian and Greek airspace, and flew over the Giza Pyramids before touching down at Cairo airport at around 7:10 a.m. (0510 GMT).
Its support crew cheered as the plane, no heavier than a car but with the wingspan of a Boeing 747, landed, and trailed after it on bicycles.
It had finished the 3,745 kilometer (2,327 mile) journey with an average speed of 76.7 kilometers (47.7 miles) an hour, the flight organizer said.
“It was fantastic, everything worked well,” pilot Andre Borschberg told the control tower, as a live stream from the cockpit was broadcast on Solar Impulse 2’s Facebook page.
He emerged from the cockpit and hugged Bertrand Piccard, with whom he has taken turns flying the plane around the world.
Solar Impulse is being flown on its 35,400-kilometer (22,000 mile) trip in stages, with Piccard and his Swiss compatriot Borschberg alternating at the controls of the single-seat plane.
Picard, who had arrived early to greet the aircraft, told reporters that flying Solar Impulse 2 showed what new technologies can do.
The 58-year-old had flown the plane across the Atlantic in a 6,765 kilometer (4,200 mile) journey.
It had completed its flight from New York to Seville in 71 hours, flying through the night with the energy stored in its 17,000 photovoltaic cells.
“It’s a new era for energy,” he said.
“I love to fly this plane because when you are in the air for several days you have the impression to be in a film of science fiction,” he said.
“You look at the sun, you look at your motors, they turn for days and for days, no fuel. And you think that’s a miracle. That’s magic. It is actually the reality of today. This is what we can do with these new technologies.”
He said the pilot takes 20 minute naps during the long flights, as the plane inches across the sky.
Borschberg had piloted the plane in its 8,924 kilometer (5,545 mile) flight from Japan to Hawaii in 118 hours, breaking the previous record for the longest uninterrupted journey in aviation history.
“It is comfortable. But of course you need to train for that,” Piccard said.
Borschberg and Piccard have said they want to raise awareness of renewable energy sources and technologies with their project.
Picard said the plane could fly continuously. “The pilot is the limit,” he told AFP.
“You capture the energy during the day, you use it in the engines and store it, and during the night you use the storage from the batteries, and you continue cycle after cycle,” he said.
Borschberg said a 20-day long flight could be on the cards.
“Will we be able to fly longer? I believe we will fly 20 days. But you have to be sustainable. You have to produce water. You have to produce oxygen,” he said.
Piccard does not expect solar powered commercial planes any time soon.
“But there will be passengers very soon in electric airplanes that we will charge on the ground.
“On the ground you can charge batteries and you can have short haul flights maybe 500 kilometers (310 miles) with 50 people flying in these planes” in a decade, he predicted.

UN resumes Sanaa aid distribution halted after Houthi thefts

Updated 3 min 36 sec ago

UN resumes Sanaa aid distribution halted after Houthi thefts

  • The halt in aid came after UN officials found the Houthis were diverting food away from those who desperately needed it
  • But UN says 22 'life saving' programs may close due to $1bn funding shortfall

SANAA: The World Food Programme (WFP) on Wednesday resumed distributing food in Yemen's capital Sanaa after a two-month stoppage.

The halt in aid came after UN officials found the Houthis were diverting food away from those who desperately needed it. 

Dozens of people gathered at a distribution centre in Sanaa to be given flour, vegetable oil, pulses, salt and sugar.

"We are relieved. Thank God. All we can do is praise God," said one recipient, Um Ahmed.

Food distribution for 850,000 people had resumed after the WFP was allowed to "introduce the key accountability measures", its spokeswoman Annabel Symington told Reuters.

When the agreement with Houthi authorities was reached in early August, the WFP said a biometric registration process would be introduced for 9 million people living in areas under Houthi control.

The system - using iris scanning, fingerprints or facial recognition - is already used in areas controlled by the Saudi-backed government that holds the southern port city of Aden and some western coastal towns.

Meanwhile, the UN Wednesday warned that 22 "life-saving" aid programs will be forced to close in Yemen in the next two months if countries do not pay more than $1 billion in funding that they pledged earlier this year.

In February countries pledged $2.6 billion to help, but UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, Lise Grande, said less than half that had been paid.

The UN said that of 34 key aid programs only three were funded for the year and 22 "life-saving" programs will need to close in the next two months.