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.


From Jeddah to Jerusalem, the faithful return to their mosques

Updated 01 June 2020

From Jeddah to Jerusalem, the faithful return to their mosques

  • Doors open again after virus lockdown
  • Internal flights resume from Saudi airports

JEDDAH/AMMAN: It began at dawn. As the first light appeared on the horizon and the call to Fajr prayer rang out, Muslims from Riyadh to Madinah and Jeddah to Jerusalem returned to their mosques on Sunday after a two-month break that for many was unbearable.

More than 90,000 mosques throughout Saudi Arabia were deep cleaned and sanitized in preparation for the end of the coronavirus lockdown. Worshippers wore face masks, kept a minimum of two meters apart, brought their own prayer mats and performed the ablution ritual at home.

“My feelings are indescribable. We are so happy. Thank God we are back in His house,” said Abdulrahman, 45, at Al-Rajhi mosque in Riyadh, where worshippers had their temperatures checked before entering.

Television screens inside the mosque displayed written instructions, including the need to maintain a safe distance from others to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In Jerusalem, at 3:30 a.m. thousands crowded outside three gates assigned to be opened to allow Muslims to enter Al-Aqsa Mosque. Young and old, men and women, many with their phone cameras on, chanted religious songs as they waited to return for the first time since the virus lockdown began.

“Those wishing to pray were checked for their temperature and those without a mask were given one by Waqf staff. All were asked to stay a safe distance from each other when they prayed,” Mazen Sinokrot, a member of the Islamic Waqf, told Arab News.

Wasfi Kailani executive director of the Hashemite Fund for the Restoration of Al-Aqsa Mosque told Arab News that enabling Muslims to pray in large numbers and according to health requirements had gone smoothly.

“People cooperated with the local Muslim authorities and followed the regulations.” The people of Jerusalem had shown a high degree of responsibility, he said.

Israeli police spokesman Miky Rosenfeld told Arab News that extra police units had been  mobilized in the old city of Jerusalem for the reopening of Al-Aqsa. 

“People arrived in the areas scheduled according to health and security guidelines,” he said.

Khaled Abu Arafeh, a former Minister for Jerusalem in the Ismael Haniyeh government in 2006, said people were happy to be able to pray once more at Islam’s third-holiest site.

“It is time to open a new page in cooperation with local institutions and with Jordan to regain all that has been lost over the years,” he told Arab News.

“The Waqf council has done a good job in dealing with the contradictions and pressures that they are under, which is like walking on a knife’s edge as they deal with the occupiers on the one hand and the health situation on the other, while also trying to be responsive to the desires of worshippers.”

Elsewhere in Saudi Arabia, commercial flights took to the air again, office staff returned to work and restaurants resumed serving diners as life began a gradual return to normal after the coronavirus lockdown.

Eleven of the Kingdom’s 28 airports opened on Sunday for the first time since March 21. “The progressive and gradual reopening aims at controlling the crowds inside airports because we want to achieve the highest health efficiency,” civil aviation spokesman Ibrahim bin Abdullah Alrwosa told Arab News.

No one without an e-ticket will be allowed into an airport, face masks must be worn and safe distancing observed, and children under 15 may not travel unaccompanied.