While flying around the world in a solar plane, Si2 Pilot Andre Borschberg relates, “Though the cockpit is not big enough, I still do yoga and meditation to keep fit, aware and awake.” Then, taking off once again in the Solar Impulse 2 (Si2), Andre Borschberg piloted the innovative solar plane on the next stage of its historic Round the World (#RTW) fuel-free journey. Departing Ahmedabad, India, on Wednesday, March 18, the relatively short flight to India took 13 hours.
Although the stopover in Varanasi was very short, this famous Hindu city holds special importance in the lives of the yoga-practicioning pilots, Solar Impulse CEO Andre Borschberg, and Solar Impulse President Bertrand Piccard.
“The World’s Oldest Living City”
Noting the Si2 team’s special connection with Varanasi, Andre Borschberg explained, “the world’s oldest living city was one of the first chosen for stopovers during the aircraft’s journey. By choosing the Indian cities of Ahmedabad and Varanasi for pit stops, the Si2 team wanted to mix modernity with spirituality.”
“I came to Varanasi two decades ago,” added Borschberg. “For me, revisiting Varanasi is like a spiritual journey, and we wanted to make it part of the human adventure that we have undertaken.”
“Yoga and Meditation Gives Us Balance”
Speaking to The Hindu shortly after arrival, Mr. Borschberg related, “I was introduced to yoga and meditation 20 years ago when I visited Rishikesh [in Uttarakhand] with my wife … Yoga and meditation is what helps me going when I am alone in the cockpit flying non-stop for days and hours.”
“Yoga and meditation gives us balance and keeps us in the right state of mind, which is very crucial when you are on such a difficult mission,” says Si2 Pilot Borschberg. Continuing, he explained, “While flying alone, we have to stay awake for days and hours … The challenge is to maintain the right mental attitude and keep thinking right and be ourselves, and yoga helps me in that. Though the cockpit is not big enough, I still do yoga and meditation to keep fit, aware and awake.”
Both Andre Borschberg and co-pilot Bertrand Piccard rely on the spiritual practices of yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises, or pranayam to support their physically challenging endeavor to circumnavigate the earth in the tight confines of a single-seater solar airplane. According to Huffington Post, the two have been practising yoga under the guidance of Indian yoga guru Sanjeev Bhanot for the past 12 years.
Twenty Minutes of Sleep Every 5 Hours
Borschberg, now 62, said, “We sleep for 20 minutes at every five hours during the flight. We also need to regain energy. For that, I started learning yoga 12 years back and have been practising it daily for the last 10 years. We also use yoga to stimulate our body and re-energise ourselves with the help of Yogi Sanjeev Bhanot.”
Continuing, the Swiss pilot pointed out, “The 20 minutes of sleep is necessary. During that nap, we leave the plane fly by itself by putting it on auto-pilot mode. Yoga helps in a different way, I practice yoga almost daily. It helps you think with a right mind, it helps in balance and breathing techniques and helps to re-energise.”
Solar Impulse President and Co-Founder Bertrand Piccard added, “I self-hypnotise to connect with inner-self. That is because hypnosis is a way to connect with the inner side of yourself.” Piccard, now 57, is also a psychiatrist. He continued, “When you live normally, you look, you feel, you get distressed, but when you start looking inside yourself, you will disconnect from the uncomfortable situation of (outer world) and you can use your inner resources and inner energy.”
Continuing on to Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma)
After a fond farewell for Varanasi, India, Bertrand Piccard took his turn in the pilot seat of the Solar Impulse 2. Taking off on March 19, Piccard completed the 1,400-kilometer flight to Mandalay, Myanmar in 13 hours and 29 minutes, flying only on energy generated from the sun.
The Si2 crew, with its team of ABB engineers, was ready for the Si2 with their inflatable hangar set up. Co-pilot Borschberg was standing by, and all were greeted with a very warm welcome as Pilot Bertrand Piccard opened the cockpit door in Mandaly.
Si2 Delivers ABB’s “Access to Electricity” Program
On the following day, Piccard and Borschberg presented ABB solar battery charging units to remote village residents. ABB has been bringing electrical power and educational and economic opportunities to developing countries for over 15 years in its “Access to Electricity” program. Now, working with local NGO partner Pact Myanmar, ABB is helping to ensure that over 3,000 people can now access stable, renewable energy in 10 of Myanmar’s remote villages.
Solar Impulse 2 President and Pilot Bertrand Piccard said, “I am very touched and excited about this project.” He continued, “It demonstrates that ABB and Pact make our [#FutureIsClean] vision a reality.”
The Solar Impulse 2 will continue on to China next. Stay tuned for another update soon!
Watch the YouTube Video of Si2 taking off from Varanasi, India:
Watch the YouTube Video of Si2 landing in Mandaly, Myanmar: