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Simulated Flight: Three Days and Nights in Solar Impulse Cockpit
Source: Solar Impulse

From 21 to 24 February 2012, Solar Impulse will simulate a 72-hour flight in a full-size mock-up cockpit of the second airplane, currently under construction. André Borschberg will put the design and configuration of the cockpit to the test, and evaluate the demands that a flight lasting several days will make on the human body.

The purpose of this simulation is in part to accumulate experience in the management of the pilot’s vital needs on a long-duration flight. There is not much experience to draw on in previous aviation history concerning fatigue and nutritional management, so this will be a unique opportunity for the Solar Impulse team to try out various concepts designed in cooperation with project partners.

The simulation will also allow Solar Impulse staff to evaluate the cockpit design of the aircraft programmed to fly round the world in 2014. This second airplane, currently under construction, needs to have a more spacious, ergonomically efficient cockpit, so that Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg - taking turns to fly it - can remain airborne for several days with their essential equipment and supplies.

The human challenge of flying round the world on solar energy
Several cooperation agreements have been signed bringing together the expertise needed to tackle the human challenge of remaining at the controls of an aircraft like Solar Impulse for 3 days and nights. Doctors from Hirslanden are helping the Solar Impulse design team make sure that the cockpit space is optimal ergonomically. Lantal has made its revolutionary pneumatic cushion comfort system available to Solar Impulse, and is developing a special seat to cater for the pilot’s need to shift position for various reasons, including attending to calls of nature. Nestlé Health Science is drawing up an individual nutritional plan catering for each pilot’s physiological requirements. Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg are both devising personalized rest strategies based on their body rhythms and needs, so that each can control his fatigue level whilst remaining alert, and vigilant for changes in flight conditions. The EPFL (Swiss Federal Polytechnic Institute) and Hirslanden are helping them with these strategies and will be present throughout the simulation to evaluate the concentration and fatigue levels of the pilot at frequent intervals, using specially designed tests. Interaction with the mission controllers will also be of vital importance, and various procedures will be tested on this occasion.

Solar Impulse invites you to follow this unique experiment via André Borschberg’s Twitter account, where he will share his impressions throughout the simulation, as well as on our blog. Articles and videos will be posted regularly, and every day a summary of the high points of the previous 24 hours will be put on-line.

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