If you happen to be in Payerne, Switzerland tomorrow morning around 7:00 a. m. Tuesday morning, August 25, you might want to visit the local airport. There, the SolarStratos team will stage a demonstration flight with a free fall parachute jump by the project’s founder.
Miquel Iturmendi will pilot Raphael Domjan to an unspecified height, from which Domjan will depart the aircraft and free fall, open his parachute, and join the gathered throng. Iturmendi will presumably return the airplane shortly thereafter.
We’re not sure whether this flight will be available for Cockpit Virtuel viewing, but future expeditions should have that feature, much like the Perlan Project’s world altitude record ventures. Iturmendi was co-pilot on one run to 65,000 feet.
This video, just a few days old, shows the airplane ready for its dual-occupant flight. In true cinema verite’ style, it forgoes narration and soundtrack music, allowing us to hear the ambient sounds of SolarStratos.
A retrospective of past trials and triumphs for the program, this video includes the dramatic breaking of the wing in a stress test. Calin Gologan, a master of lightweight structures, designed a replacement that is ready for whatever comes. Although only available in French, the message about climate change near the end is unmistakable.
The announcement hit your editor’s inbox just this morning, and the events take place tomorrow morning, Payerne time, or 1:00 am eastern daylight time and 11:00 am Pacific daylight time.
LIVE TV will be available on the SolarStatos website, as well as at: https://livestream.com/swisslivehd/solarstratos
Flight details will be posted on the project’s Facebook account: https://www.facebook.com/SolarStratos/
On Thursday, August 20, Iturmendi took project founder Domjan for his first solar flight, making it only the second time a sun-powered airplane has carried two people aloft. Eric and Irena Raymond were first with their Sunseeker Duo several years ago.
After the 48-minute flight Domjan reflected, “What a long way I have come since I dreamed of flying with solar energy during my Pacific crossing aboard my solar boat PlanetSolar, it’s incredible! Thank you to all my team, our partners and all the people who have supported us for all these years.”
SolarStratos explains the grander goals of the project. “Beyond these technological and human feats, SolarStratos’ priority objective is to promote solar energy in order to protect the climate of our planet from greenhouse gases, by demonstrating that concepts and projects that seemed inconceivable a few years ago are now possible thanks to the technologies available today.”
As they become available, this blog will include the videos and photos of tomorrow’s event.
And It Really Happened!
True to plan and seemingly without impediment, Domjan and Iturmendi made a leisurely climb of about one meter per second (about 197 feet per minute) up to the jumpoff point of 1,520 meters (5,000 feet). Their press release this morning tells it all.
“Payerne, 25 August 2020 – Raphaël Domjan and the SolarStratos team achieved two world firsts this morning in Payerne.
“Exclusively powered by solar energy, the experimental aircraft took off from the Broyard airfield at 7.40 am, with test pilot Miguel A. Iturmendi and Raphaël Domjan, initiator and future pilot of SolarStratos.
‘After a short climb and after reaching an altitude of 5000 feet (1520 metres), Raphaël Domjan threw himself into the void, freefalling several hundred metres and reaching a speed of more than 150 km/h before landing in front of the team base and an array of guests.
‘Two world firsts were achieved during this historic flight: Raphaël Domjan made the first jump in history from an electric plane and also accomplished the first solar free fall, without any CO2 emissions.
“I am very proud of this achievement”, said the Neuchâtel explorer and lecturer. “Our aim is to demonstrate the potential of solar energy and electric mobility. It is a message of hope for future generations: tomorrow they will still be able to dream and carry out activities such as parachuting, for example, but without greenhouse gas emissions and in absolute silence. I have always been fascinated by aeroplanes and I hope that this will continue to make the young people of tomorrow dream, thanks to aircraft that are more respectful of our planet and our climate.”
“Very impressed by the recent progress of SolarStratos, and sensitive to the image conveyed by the SolarStratos project, Nicolas Bideau, Director of Presence Suisse, said he was very moved. “One of my roles is to find ambassadors for Switzerland, who convey a positive image of our country. Historically, Switzerland was built by pioneers who took risks. This project reflects the power of dreams, turned into a concrete project for our country.”
“Passionate about the SolarStratos adventure, Bertrand Piccard is “always happy to see people realize their dreams. What Raphaël does is fantastic’, he says. ‘His project illustrates the new cycle that now characterizes aviation, which must imperatively adapt to renewable energies.'”
“Representing the International Aeronautical Federation, Alphons Hubman, states that he is ‘always on the lookout for new technologies. The SolarStratos project illustrates this new trend with a pioneering spirit. What they have achieved is extraordinary”.
“The world premieres of the SolarStratos team were broadcast live on live TV, and can be viewed on the website www.solarstratos.com.”