I’ve just watched Bertrand Piccard climb out of his strange, sponsor-spattered aircraft along with some 10,000 other YouTube viewers and proclaim — without fatigue, somehow, after dwelling in his ultra-Swiss sky pod for this last 49-hour leg — “…an achievement in the history of energy. We have traveled 40,000 kilometers without fuel. Now it’s your turn to take it further.”
[mks_pullquote align=“left” width=“300” size=“20” bg_color=”#dddddd” txt_color=”#891f1f”]“We should never accept that the world should be polluted only because people are scared to think in another way.”[/mks_pullquote]
Co-pioneer and alternate pilot, André Borschberg stands opposite on the elevated platform after starchily opening the hatch to a rather solemn tune, wisped from a french horn off-camera. Rather disturbingly, I notice his eerie resemblance to Charles Nungesser. George Saunders would write portraits; I’ll just embed a Tweet:
left: André Borschberg
right: Charles Nungesser
— David Blue (@AsphaltApostle) July 26, 2016
Perhaps I am the only to wonder; perhaps this is some sort of conspiracy thought by its proponents to be long after the disappearance of the two extravagant Frenchmen over the North Atlantic had been forgotten.
Perhaps good ole’ Chuck’s soul finally found rest today, live on YouTube.
At least Piccard looks absolutely nothing like François Coli. In their wrinkles and orange cause jackets, the pair do indeed wax the jovial French airmen trope. But they are not airmen. In fact, they’re not even aviators. They are visionaries (a term not associated with aviation for decades.) According to the public, they are a ballooning Swiss psychiatrist and a flying Swiss businessman. They are “explorers: two ambassadors for a clean future.” No doubt, they are men of their time.
[mks_pullquote align=“left” width=“250” size=“24” bg_color=”#ccdaff” txt_color=”#1e003f”]Perhaps good ole’ Chuck’s soul finally found rest today, live on YouTube.[/mks_pullquote]
After months of her slow, easy, super-clean winging, Solar Impulse II has returned to Abu Dhabi.
“We have enough solutions — enough technologies. We should never accept that the world should be polluted only because people are scared to think in another way,” Bertrand reassures, in triumph. One wonders to which onlooker’s eyes he speaks. To the old romantic, he is an explorer; to any sort of economist, an agitator. Considering the rarity of the aviation-minded former, I remain unapologetically insistent: these are your contemporary cowboys.
They succeeded. For us, they streamed the whole dang ordeal, including the silent labor of opening their champagne. Thanks to those GoPro decals, they even captured a “hyperlapse” of the entire journey. And why not? Clearly, there is not much for one to do in the Solar Impulse II.
As a pilot and — dare I say it — aviation enthusiast, watching Akon Skype with Piccard on his phone’s front camera while snacking and driving was a whole new level of spectacle. No, I don’t think Charles Lindbergh would’ve accepted the call, even if he had the required surplus of attention and time, but I do not write to complain. The contrast, while humorous, indicates that aviation is now unquestionably dull, indeed. It is no longer daring to cover the distance; it is daring to stage history’s first fuelless round-the-world flight from the capitol of Big Oil, occupying every single sharing tool available, confidently traversing and engaging the whole Earth in intelligent energy science discourse to pass the time.
“We’re back. I said we’d be back.”