Solar-powered plane lands in Egyptian capital

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


Calm in Hodeidah as observers move in to monitor cease-fire

Sporadic clashes continued until about 3 a.m. on Tuesday, but residents said there was calm after that. (AFP)
Updated 19 December 2018
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Calm in Hodeidah as observers move in to monitor cease-fire

  • “Both parties said publicly they are abiding by the cease-fire,” a UN official said
  • The truce in Hodeidah officially began at midnight on Monday

JEDDAH: Truce monitoring observers will be deployed in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah on Wednesday as the first 24 hours of a UN-brokered cease-fire passed without incident.

The Redeployment Coordination Committee comprises members of the Yemeni government supported by the Saudi-led coalition, and Houthi militias backed by Iran, and is overseen by the UN. 

The head of the committee will report to the UN Security Council every week.

Deployment of the observers is the latest stage in a peace deal reached after talks last week in Sweden. Both sides in the conflict agreed to a cease-fire in Hodeidah and the withdrawal of their forces within 21 days.

“Both parties said publicly they are abiding by the cease-fire,” a UN official said on Tuesday.

Local authorities and police will run the city and its three port facilities under UN supervision, and the two sides are barred from bringing in reinforcements.

UN envoy Martin Griffith said the committee was expected to start its work swiftly “to translate the momentum built up in Sweden into achievements on the ground.”

The truce in Hodeidah officially began at midnight on Monday. Sporadic clashes continued until about 3 a.m. on Tuesday, but residents said there was calm after that. 

“We are hopeful that things will go back to the way they were and that there will be no aggression, no airstrikes and lasting security,” said one, Amani Mohammed.

Another resident, Mohammed Al-Saikel, said he was optimistic the cease-fire would pave the way for a broader truce. “We are hopeful about this cease-fire in Hodeidah and one for Yemen in general,” he said. “We will reach out in peace to whoever does the same.”

The UN Security Council is considering a draft resolution that asks Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to submit proposals by the end of the month on how to monitor the cease-fire.

The resolution, submitted by the UK, “calls on all parties to the conflict to take further steps to facilitate the unhindered flow of commercial and humanitarian supplies including food, fuel, medicine and other essential imports and humanitarian personnel into and across the country.”